With energy prices exploding, the end of the road is far from over, the cost of living is rising steadily, as are real wages sink massively. At least the municipal utilities in Germany are clear where this will lead: an extreme increase in payment defaults is expected – with critical consequences for the suppliers. The fear of bankruptcy is growing.
“Until now, defaults have been less than one percent,” discussed the general manager of the association of municipal companies (VKU), Ingbert Liebing, to the newspapers of the Funke media group. But that is now changing: “Now many municipal utilities are already pricing in losses of up to eight percent. But there are also municipal utilities that calculate bad debt losses of up to 15 percent. Then it becomes dangerous.”
Liebing speaks of a “critical situation for a critical infrastructure” and calls for an insolvency moratorium for energy suppliers. For him, it is also clear that significant relief for consumers is finally needed. The reduced VAT on gas is not enough: He is also calling for a reduction in value-added tax to seven or five percent for electricity and heat; the electricity tax must also be reduced to the permissible minimum. In addition, the recipient group for social benefits should be expanded.
The VKU boss sees the danger not only in the gas crisis: “We have to be careful that problems that we have in the gas sector are not carried over to the electricity sector.” The price on the electricity market is currently determined by the so-called merit order principle: it is based on the most expensive producing power plant (i.e. gas-fired power plants). Liebing takes a critical view of this: “Under the current circumstances, it is necessary to discuss pricing on the markets.”
There is no hope of falling prices – on the contrary. Currently, the price increases for consumers are usually between 30 and 60 percent, but some municipal utilities have more than doubled their prices. Since the municipal utilities procure gas over the long term, the price increases will continue in the coming year. According to Liebing, gas is still being used that was bought a year or two ago at more favorable conditions. “And if we look at the stock market, we come from under 20 euros per megawatt hour at the beginning of last year and are now more than 300 euros per megawatt hour.”