One in two people in the Netherlands have variable-rate energy contracts. This means that their energy suppliers can change the rates for natural gas and electricity twice a year or more often, if market circumstances so require. These consumers thus feel the pinch of energy-price increases quite soon. The other half of consumers have energy contracts with rates that have been fixed for a year or more. They will probably have to pay higher rates when their fixed-rate contracts expire. This has been some of the conclusions found in the Energy Monitor 2022 of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). The Energy Monitor contains information that ACM requests from energy suppliers as well as findings from consumer surveys. ACM has these consumer surveys conducted each year in April.
Through 2021, the number of consumers with variable-rate contracts went down each year (44% in 2021). This year’s increase in the number of consumers with variable-rate contracts is primarily caused by the fact that energy suppliers hardly offer fixed-rate contracts anymore. Because of the extreme price volatility on the energy market, energy suppliers find it more expensive and thus harder to fix their purchase prices for a longer period of time. Discussions with consumer panels have revealed that a majority of consumers wishes to conclude fixed-rate contracts again when it is possible again. However, there are also consumers that prefer variable-rate contracts because of the current volatility on the energy market. They see it as an advantage that they can easily switch whenever they want to, and they also point out that they will not be stuck with a higher rate if energy prices go down.
Consumers will have to pay considerably more for the supply of natural gas and electricity if they take out a new contract. An analysis of Statistics Netherlands (CBS) has revealed that the price for one m3 of natural gas went up 393% over the past year, and the price of electricity (Kwh) went up 364%. The Energy Monitor 2022 shows that consumers, too, feel that price increase: the number of consumers that say they think prices for natural gas and electricity are high or too high has risen tremendously (from 52% in 2021 to 78% in 2022). This year, ACM specifically asked consumers that are connected to heat networks about their experiences. Of these heat consumers, 80% say that prices are high or too high.
The Energy Monitor 2022 shows that 29% of consumers of natural gas and electricity say they have much (or very much) confidence in their energy suppliers. In 2021, that percentage was 19%. Conversely, 23% of consumers of natural gas and electricity say they have little (or very little) confidence in their energy suppliers. In 2021, that percentage was 29%. Consumers of natural gas and electricity have slightly more confidence in their energy suppliers than people that are connected to heat networks (29% v. 23%). In addition, higher satisfaction rates can be seen with regard to total service, invoicing, prices, handling of questions/complaints, customer-friendliness, and access to energy consumption. One in four heat users would switch suppliers if it were possible.
Becoming more sustainable
More and more consumers take measures to reduce their energy consumption and to become more sustainable. In 2021, 81% of consumers took one or more sustainability-related measures in their homes. In 2022, that percentage rose to 90%. The most common measures were the installation of a smart energy meter (60%), access to energy consumption (39%), cavity wall insulation (38%), roof insulation (38%), high-efficiency glazing such as HR++ glass (36%), and solar panels on the roof (31%). Home-insulation measures are an important step for consumers to make their homes more sustainable, and to save on their energy bills. Consumers also say that generating energy themselves using solar panels has become more appealing, considering the high energy prices, because they can recoup such investments quite quickly. The same logic is applied to electric vehicles. Consumers find that alternative equally appealing because of the high fuel prices.
15-06-2022 Energy Monitor 2022 for consumers (in Dutch)