Belgians are currently paying significantly more for electricity than households in neighbouring countries, a recent study by the Belgian Federal Commission for Electricity and Gas Regulation (CREG) has found.
The report estimated that the average Belgian household will pay €1,914.73 for 3,500 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity over the course of this year — €500 more on average than citizens of the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK.
The report also noted that, after the Netherlands, households in Belgium now face the second-highest natural gas prices, with an estimated annual gas bill of €2,750.
In total, CREG found that, after the Netherlands (€5,438.41), households in Belgium now experience the second-highest annual energy bills among neighbouring countries (€4,665.26 euros), followed by Germany (€4,133.18 euros), the UK (€3,862.58) and France (€2,796.39).
Reasons for the high prices
One obvious reason for the high energy prices is Belgian homes' relatively poor insulation: according to De Standaard, the country's homes are the fourth-worst insulated in Europe, thus implying that Belgians must consume higher-than-average quantities of energy in order to properly heat their homes.
But ultimately, the most significant factor that affects the high energy costs faced in Belgium is politics. Chiefly, the Federal Government's steadfast refusal to implement a France-style energy price cap: a proposal which has received significant support from many left-wing Belgian groups, including the Workers' Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA).
"Our bills are still as high as ever," the PTB-PVDA notes on its official website. "It's time to find a real solution. Block energy prices. France does it and gas and electricity are three times cheaper there. When will our government finally help people?"
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Indeed, rather than attempting to limit Belgians' energy costs, the Federal Government recently issued a reform to Belgium's electricity and gas regime which, if approved, will see Belgians pay up to €20 a month more for energy from 1 April. Belgian Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem (CD&V) described the proposal as "a necessary, structural reform, which makes it possible to... better protect the basic consumption of households."
The Government's reform has been heavily criticised across the political spectrum, with both right-wing Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang and the PTB-PVDA vehemently denouncing the proposal.
"At the moment that energy prices are finally starting to drop a bit (but are still unaffordable for many), Vivaldi is going to make our energy bill more expensive again," tweeted PTB-PVDA leader Raoul Hedebouw. "In what world does this government live?"