As energy prices continue to climb across the continent, the Federal Government has committed to financial measures that will help many Belgian households meet the costs of rising energy bills this winter.
The government will make €760 million available with the aim of helping Belgian consumers manage with the higher prices for gas and electricity. This will, in part, be done by extending the social tariff until the end of March 2022. However, the measures will not apply to all Belgian households but only those who are in the greatest financial need.
Given the significant increases in prices are and to ensure that Belgians do not have to choose between cooking or heating their houses – a “devastating” choice that experts have warned might face the those who are less financially secure in other countries – eligibility for the social tariff will also be expanded. The measure already provides financial assistance to some 500,000 households (largely tenants in social housing) and this will be enlarged to help a further 440,000 households.
This latest measure aims to avoid households being hit by a “bill shock” next year when current fixed-rate energy contracts are renewed and will increase considerably to account for the global rise in the costs of energy. In this way it is hoped that the most precarious consumers will be saved from exorbitant rises in bills.
The current energy crisis
Over the last few months, energy prices have shot up to record levels as supply struggles to keep up with demand. The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that the EU’s two main natural gas providers – Norway and Russia – have been unable to produce as much as they would normally and have seen their stocks depleted.
Furthermore, demand has been fuelled by the opening up of economies as pandemic restrictions start to ease. Another key factor is the rising price of carbon credits, effectively the penalty that the EU imposes for emitting polluting greenhouse gasses. This has meant that for industries that still rely on fossil fuels for energy rather than green alternatives, the cost of energy has sky-rocketed and these trickle down to individual consumers.
Experts fear that the approaching winter could make conditions very difficult for a large part of European consumers – particularly those who have fewer savings.