Berlin Saves Energy – Questions and Answers

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Energy Supply

  • Is the energy supply secure?

    According to the Bundesnetzagentur, the gas supply in Germany is currently stable and security of supply is guaranteed. However, the situation is tense and a deterioration of the situation cannot be ruled out. Things look better for the electricity supply. According to the Federal Ministry of Economics, it is guaranteed for this autumn and winter. But here, too, there may be bottlenecks, at least temporarily.

  • What is the gas emergency plan?

    The Gas Emergency Plan (Notfallplan Gas) regulates the gas supply in Germany in crisis situations. It is comprised of several stages. The early warning stage is called if there are indications of an event that could lead to a significant deterioration of the gas supply. The alert level is called if there is a disruption in the gas supply or an exceptionally high demand for gas that could cause a significant deterioration in the supply situation. At this stage, the market can still cope with the disruption or demand. This stage is followed by the emergency level, which is called when the situation is so critical that the state intervenes in the market. Currently, the alert level applies (as of 31 August 2022).

  • What does the declaration of the alert level mean for me?

    The declaration of the alert level has no direct impact on the gas supply for private customers. Households can continue to heat their homes, cook and heat their water with gas. Nevertheless, it is important to be economical in the everyday consumption of electricity and heat within one’s means and thus contribute to the security of supply. The calculation is simple: what is not consumed now will be available in winter.

  • Who decides on the allocation of gas in a shortage situation?

    In cases where the emergency level applies, the Federal Network Agency acts as a so-called federal load distributor. This means that the authority decides on the distribution of gas within Germany in close coordination with the network operators. Some consumer groups are under special protection in this case. These include private households and social institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, daycare centres and schools.

  • What is a blackout?

    A blackout is an uncontrolled failure of the power supply that affects larger parts of the grid. A blackout is not caused by a lack of power supply, but by serious disturbances and errors in network operation. A controlled intervention in the power supply, on the other hand, is called brownout.

  • How likely are blackouts in Berlin?

    According to the Federal Network Agency, a blackout is currently extremely unlikely. In principle, a blackout cannot be completely ruled out at any time throughout Europe – this assessment also applies irrespective of the energy crisis.

  • What is a brownout?

    In an intentional brownout, power grids are shut down in a certain region and for a limited period of time in order to avoid a widespread supply shortage. To keep the restrictions for those affected as low as possible, brownouts are carried out in a controlled manner and, in the case of a longer duration, according to a rolling principle, i.e. gradually in the different regions.

  • How likely are brownouts in Berlin?

    As things stand, hourly crisis situations in the power system are unlikely, but cannot be completely ruled out. The need for intentional brownouts depends on several factors, including external temperatures and general power consumption. An overload of the power grids in Berlin could result from the parallel use of a high number of electric heaters, such as fan heaters or infrared heaters. In this case, the power grids would be relieved by switching off the power in certain regions and for a limited time. For this reason, electric heating systems should only be used in exceptional cases. The simultaneous use of electric heaters in particular can be hazardous for the power supply. Saving energy in all areas continues to be important.

  • How does the power supply in Berlin remain stable?

    The best precaution is to ensure that temporary overloads do not occur. Basically, an overload occurs when the load on the power grid exceeds its capacity. So if a particularly large number of power-consuming devices are connected at the same time in a certain area (for example, air conditioners in the summer or fan heaters in the winter), the grid can be overloaded and thus damaged. If the grid is threatened with overload, a temporary and spatially limited disconnection may be necessary. This measure will be taken by the grid operator to prevent the grid from being damaged by overload. It is a very unlikely scenario, but grid operators must nevertheless prepare for it, and this is exactly what Stromnetz Berlin GmbH does.

    Approximately 36,000 kilometers of power cables are laid in Berlin’s urban area. The power grid can be thought of as a series of honeycombs: If one honeycomb has to be shut down for a short time due to imminent overload, the other honeycombs can continue to be supplied with power.

Energy Debt

  • What can I do about debts from energy bills?

    Contact a recognized debtor and insolvency counseling center in your district as soon as possible. You can find the list of advisory services on the website of the Senate Department for Consumer Protection. Please note that some of these services may only be available in German language.

    Recipients of social welfare (Sozialhilfe) or Bürgergeld should also contact their social welfare office and the job center.

    If you have already received a disconnection notice for electricity or heating or if an energy supply disconnection has already been imposed, you might be eligible to receive a one-time subsidy from the Energy Debt Hardship Fund. All the offices mentioned above can advise you on how to apply to the hardship fund.

  • Where can people with low income get financial aid if they can't pay their heating bill?

    If you are unable to pay your heating bill or additional heating charges due to increased prices, contact the job center and apply for for benefits according to SGB II (Citizens’ Income/Bürgergeld). Even if your income usually covers your needs and you are therefore not permanently entitled to benefits, a high heating bill or high additional charges can justify a one-time claim for unemployment benefit II or social welfare. It is important that you file the application for subsistence benefits for a single month by the end of the third month after the due month. The job center will check whether the costs or your energy consumption are reasonable and whether you are entitled to benefits based on your income.

  • Where can retired people with low pensions get financial aid if they can't pay their heating bill?

    If you are unable to pay your heating bill or additional charges due to increased prices, contact the social welfare office in your district and apply for basic benefits according to SGB XII (social welfare/Grundsicherung). Even if your pension usually covers your needs and you therefore do not have a permanent claim to basic security benefits, a high heating bill or additional charges can justify a one-time claim. It is important that you file the application for basic benefits in the month in which the additional payment is due. The social welfare office will checks whether the costs or your energy consumption are reasonable and whether you are entitled to benefits based on your income.

  • Why are my heating costs only partially covered?

    For your heating costs to be covered in full, they must be considered reasonable. This is calculated with the help of the nationwide heating index. If the limit values are exceeded, there will be an examination checking whether higher heating costs are also appropriate in the individual case. The examination of the appropriateness of heating costs according to the Second and Twelfth Books of the Social Code is based on annual consumption. The costs for heating are generally considered reasonable if individual consumption does not exceed the limits (AV Wohnen).

    If your consumption is higher than the amount deemed reasonable, it will be examined whether there are demonstrable individual reasons (such as illness or a poorly insulated apartment) that justify exceeding the limit. If your consumption exceeds the limits without good reason, you will be informed and asked to adjust your consumption. If you do not comply, the costs will no longer be covered in full.

Heating Cost Subsidy for Oil, Wood Pellet, Coal and Liquid Gas Heating Systems

  • I heat with oil, wood pellets or coal. Is there any financial support for me?

    The Berlin relief package provides subsidies for households that heat with coal, oil or pellets. 75 million euros have been earmarked in the state budget for the Berlin heating cost assistance program. In addition, further funds from the relief package planned by the federal government are to strengthen the program. According to the Königstein Key, the state of Berlin expects to receive a further 93 million euros.

    Households and business owners whose heating costs for oil, pellets, coal or liquid gas increased at least 1.7-fold in 2022 receive a subsidy of €100 to €2000. In order to claim the subsidy, applications can be submitted online from January 31, 2023. The subsidy amounts to 80% of the heating costs that exceed 1.7 times the costs for the year 2021.

  • How much is the heating cost subsidy for oil, pellet, coal and liquid gas heating?

    When calculating the subsidy, the 2021 heating cost average serves as a reference value. The heating cost subsidy amounts to 80% of the 2022 heating costs in excess of 1.7 times the 2021 costs.

    Example 1:

    A household spent €1000 on heating with coal in 2021. In 2022, consumption remained the same but the bill was €2200. This corresponds to an increase by a factor of 2.2. The household is therefore eligible to apply for the subsidy. The amount of the grant is 80% of the difference between €2200 and €1700 (increase in heating costs in 2021 by a factor of 1.7), i.e. 80% of €500. Thus, the household receives €400.

    Example 2:

    A household spent €1200 on heating with liquid gas in 2021. The cost for 2022, assuming consumption remains the same, is €2160. This corresponds to an increase by a factor of 1.8. The amount of the subsidy is 80% of the difference between €2160 and €2040 (increase in heating costs in 2021 by a factor of 1.7), i.e. 80% of €120. Since the calculated sum (€96) is below the de minimis limit of €100, no subsidy is paid.

  • What do I have to do to benefit from the heating cost subsidy?

    If you heat with coal, pellets, oil or liquid gas and your heating costs in 2022 were at least 1.7 times as high as in 2021, you can apply online for the subsidy. The application will be available on the website of the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB) from January 31, 2023.

Hardship Fund for Power and Heating Cut-Offs

  • My power or heating is about to be cut. What can I do?

    To avert or lift electricity and heating energy cut-offs, you can apply for a benefit from the Energy Debt Hardship Fund, provided certain requirements are met.

    Applications are submitted online via the service portal of the State of Berlin.

    The State of Berlin offers numerous assistance and advisory services in the that can help you with the application process. You can find a list on the website of the Senate Department for Consumer Protection.

    In addition, you can also get assistance directly from the customer center of your energy supply company.

    The hardship fund’s approval office will inform you via e-mail whether your application has been approved or rejected. You will be asked to seek energy debt counseling. The payment of the benefit is independent of this. In your own interest, however, you should definitely comply with the request. Small changes can help you in dealinf with the price development and in avoiding future distress. These include, for example, agreements with your energy supply company to adjust your deductions as well as energy saving tips and tricks.

  • Which requirements do I have to meet to receive a grant from the Hardship Fund?

    The most important requirements are a residence in Berlin and a statement from your utility company documenting an effective or impending cut-off from the heating energy or power supply in 2023 for your private residence. Furthermore, you must declare that you cannot cover your energy debts with your income. Your household income must be below a certain limit. In order to make sure if you are eligible for a grant from the Hardship Fund, just submit an application. For more information, including information on income limits, visit the Service Portal.

  • How often can I apply for benefits from the Hardship Fund?

    You can receive benefits once each for power and heating cuts. If your application has been rejected, you can apply again.

  • Can I receive a grant from the Hardship Fund even though I receive other benefits, such as housing assistance, social welfare or BaFöG?

    In principle, you can receive benefits from the Hardship Fund even if you are already a recipient of other types of benefits. However, depending on the situation, some things must be taken into account.

    • BaFöG recipients: Please note that BaFöG allowances are considered income and must be declared as income when applying. In the event of heating cut-offs, it is assumed that the federal heating cost subsidy II, which is expected to be paid in March 2023, will be used primarily to avoid future cuts or to avert an impending cut.
    • Housing benefit (Wohngeld) recipients: Please take your housing allowance into account when declaring your income. From January 2023, housing benefit recipients will regularly receive a heating allowance and, in addition – probably in March 2023 – the federal heating allowance II. Against this backdrop, it can be assumed that housing benefit recipients will not have to deal with heating cuts in the first place, or will be able to avert possible heating cuts with their own resources.
    • Recipients of citizen’s income (Bürgergeld), social welfare (Sozialhilfe) or basic benefits (Grundsicherung): Heating cuts are very unlikely for households that receive the aforementioned benefits, as their heating costs are covered in full if consumption stays within reasonable limits. Heating cuts as a result of uneconomical heating behavior can only be covered by the Hardship Fund if consumption does not exceed certain average values.

    Since electricity is part of the so-called standard needs, the following applies in the case of power cuts: You must state that you have made an effort to have the outstanding costs covered by your job center or social welfare office, but that the request was rejected or that only a loan-based assumption of the outstanding costs was approved.

Electricity and Gas Price Brake

  • When will the electricity price brake come into effect?

    The electricity price brake is expected to come into force in March 2023. It will then apply retroactively from January. This means that any savings accrued for January and February will be paid out retroactively. The electricity price brake is to apply until April 2024.

  • What do I have to do to benefit from the electricity price brake?

    Nothing. The discount is automatically offset against your monthly budget payments and billed accordingly. If you consume less electricity than in the previous year, you benefit additionally.

  • How much money will I save with the electricity price brake?

    The electricity price brake caps the price of electricity at 40 cents per kilowatt hour as long as your electricity consumption remains within 80 percent of the previous year’s consumption, based on the month in question. This means that you pay a maximum of 40 cents per kilowatt hour for an amount equal to 80 percent of the amount of electricity you consumed in the previous year. You will have to pay the full electricity price for consumption above this amount.

    If you consume less than in the previous year, you will save extra via the repayment at the end of the year. As a rule of thumb, if you reduce your electricity consumption by around 25 percent, your 2023 electricity bill will be roughly the same as your previous year’s bill.

    This is illustrated by the following example:

    • New electricity price: 65 ct/kWh
    • Old electricity price: 30 ct/kWh
    • Previous year’s consumption: 4,500 kWh (375 kWh per month)
    Amount consumed per month Cost per month Additional cost/savings
    2022: 375 kWh 113 euros
    2023: Unchanged (375 kWh) without electricity price brake 244 euros 131 euros
    2023: Unchanged (375 kWh) with electricity price brake 169 euros 75 euros
    2023: 20 % less (300 kWh) with electricity price brake 120 euros 7 euros
    2023: 50 % less (300 kWh) with electricity price brake 47 euros – 66 euros
  • When will the gas price brake come into effect?

    The gas price brake is expected to come into force in March 2023. It will then apply retroactively from January. This means that any savings accrued for January and February will be paid out retroactively. The gas price brake is to apply until April 2024.

  • What do I have to do to benefit from the gas price brake?

    Nothing. The discount is automatically offset against your monthly payments and invoiced accordingly. Landlords are obliged to pass on the discount to their tenants from March 01, 2023 or to offset it against the service charge statement. If you consume less gas than in the previous year, you will benefit additionally.

  • How much money will I save with the gas price brake?

    The gas price brake caps the price of gas at 12 cents per kilowatt hour as long as your gas consumption remains within 80 percent of the previous year’s consumption, based on the month in question. This means that you pay a maximum of 12 cents per kilowatt hour for an amount equal to 80 percent of the amount of gas you consumed in the previous year. You will have to pay the full gas price for consumption above this amount.

    If you consume less than in the previous year, you will save extra via the repayment at the end of the year. As a rule of thumb, if you reduce your consumption by around 25 percent, your gas bill for the whole of 2023 will hardly be more expensive than in 2022.

    This is illustrated by the following example:
    • New gas price: 22 ct/kWh
    • Old gas price: 8 ct/kWh
    • Previous year’s consumption: 15,000 kWh
    Amount consumed per year Cost per year Additional cost/savings
    2022: 15,000 kWh 1,200 euros
    2023: Unchanged (15,000 kWh) without gas price brake 3,300 euros 2.100 euros
    2023: Unchanged (15,000 kWh) with gas price brake 2,100 euros 900 euros
    2023: 25 % less (11,250 kWh) with gas price brake 1,275 euros 75 euros
    2023: 50 % less (7,500 kWh) with gas price brake 450 euros – 750 euros

Further Aid and Support

  • What does the December emergency aid mean for me?

    If you yourself have a direct contract with a gas supplier, you do not have to make an advance payment in the month of December. If you usually pay via bank transfer, you simply do not make any transfer for December. If you pay by direct debit, your energy supplier will either not debit any payment for December or will transfer it back by December 31, 2022.

    District heating customers will receive compensation for the December payment by December 31, 2022. Either the amount will not be debited, or you will receive a credit for the amount.

    For tenants whose gas consumption is billed via heating bills, the following applies: the relief will be passed on to tenants by landlords with the utility bill for 2022 if the monthly advance payments have not yet been adjusted.

    If your utility advance payments have already been increased due to higher gas or heating costs since February 19, 2022, you do not have to pay the increase amount in December. You can reduce the transfer of the monthly advance payment accordingly or ask for a refund of the overpaid amount. If you remain inactive, the overpaid amount will be included in the next annual utility bill.

    In buildings with gas central heating, one quarter of the operating costs due in December 2022 does not have to be paid if the lease was newly concluded in the last nine months.

  • What is the energy price lump sum and who gets it?

    The energy price lump sum (Energiepreispauschale, EPP) is a one-off payment of 300 euros. It will be paid out from September 2022. The lump sum will be paid to all employed persons subject to social insurance contributions and pensioners in Germany. This includes employees, trainees, civil servants, soldiers, mini-jobbers, paid interns, volunteers, and mothers and fathers on parental leave. The EPP is subject to taxation. Depending on their tax burden. most people will receive less than 300 euros. The above-mentioned employees will receive the lump sum automatically with their salary. For pensioners, the EPP is paid out through the German pension insurance. Self-employed persons and freelancers can deduct it from their next tax return.

  • What is the heating cost subsidy and who gets it?

    The heating cost subsidy (Heizkostenzuschuss) offers relief from rising energy costs to recipients of receive housing benefit or BAföG in particular. Two heating subsidies have been approved to date.

    Students who receive BAföG, trainees receiving training assistance or training allowance and those receiving upgrading training assistance with a maintenance allowance receive two one-time payment of 230 euros and 345 euros.

    Housing benefit recipients will also receive two one-time payments:
    • 270 euros per person or 350 euros for two-person households entitled to housing allowance plus 70 euros for each additional family member.
    • 415 euros per person or 540 euros for two persons entitled to housing benefits in one household plus 100 euros for each additional family member.

    Payment is made by the responsible office. There is no need to submit a separate application.

  • What assistance do students receive?

    Students and vocational students receive a one-off payment of 200 euros. The payment modalities are currently being clarified. In addition, students receiving BAföG, trainees with training assistance or training allowance and those receiving upgrading training assistance with a maintenance allowance receive two one-off heating allowance payments (Heizkostenzuschuss).

  • What assistance do recipients of social benefits or unemployment benefits receive?

    Recipients of social benefits receive a one-off payment of 200 euros. This applies in particular to people who receive unemployment benefit II or basic income support. Recipients of unemployment benefit I receive a one-off payment of 100 euros. In addition, persons receiving housing allowance receive two one-time heating cost subsidies (Heizkostenzuschuss).

  • What aids for families have been decided?

    Families will receive a one-off child bonus of 100 euros per child. In addition, child benefit will be increased by 18 euros for the first and second child effective 1 January 2023. Furthermore, the children’s allowance for low-income families was increased to 229 euros on 1 July 2022. It will be further increased to 250 on 1 January 2023.

29-Euro Ticket

  • Where is the 29-euro ticket valid?

    The ticket is valid in the Berlin city area (fare zone AB). The ticket can be purchased directly from the BVG and the Berlin S-Bahn.

  • During which time period is the 29-euro ticket valid?

    The ticket will be valid as a subscription ticket from October 1, 2022 until the introduction of the nationwide Deutschlandticket, but no longer than April 30, 2023. The subscription can be started at the beginning of any month and will run at least until the end of the promotional period, provided that the special right of cancellation is exercised. New customers who wish to use their subscription from 1 January must submit the corresponding application by 20 December 2022 at the latest. The ticket can be purchased directly from the BVG and the Berlin S-Bahn.

    Customers who have already made use of the special right to cancel their subscription by December 31, 2022, can easily revoke the cancellation in order to continue the subscription. Some transport companies will write to their customers (or have already done so) and allow them to continue their subscription in a straightforward manner. Subscribers who have not been written to should contact their transport company directly with their renewal request.

  • I already have a subscription for the AB fare zone, will I also benefit from a reduced price?

    All subscriptions or tickets valid in the Berlin AB area will cost only 29 euros between October and the end of the promotional period, given that they were more expensive before. This also applies to ongoing subscriptions, such as the Umweltkarte Berlin AB,10 am tickets with monthly and annual debit, VBB company tickets with monthly and annual debit and training tickets with monthly debit. Customers do not need to take any action; the price reduction to 29 euros will happen automatically via billing or credit.

  • Can I purchase a subscribtion for the validity period of the 29-euro ticket only?

    Customers initially have to purchase a subscription with a contract term of at least 12 months. The subscription can start in any month. Those who wish to cancel their subscription again at the end of the promotional period, can make use of their special cancellation right. The latter makes this cancellation possible without any disadvantages for the customer.

  • Is the 29-euro ticket only available as a subscription ticket?

    Yes, for legal reasons the 29-euro ticket is only available as a subscription with a special cancellation right. Therefore, it cannot be purchased individually for certain months, but only as a subscription. However, it is possible to join monthly. Ticket subscriptions can be purchased at sales points of the BVG and the Berlin S-Bahn.

    Customers who have already made use of the special right to cancel their subscription by December 31, 2022, can easily revoke the cancellation in order to continue the subscription. Some transport companies will write to their customers (or have already done so) and allow them to continue their subscription in a straightforward manner. Subscribers who have not been written to should contact their transport company directly with their renewal request.

Saving Energy

  • I would like to save energy, but I don't know how. Where can I get help?

    Regardless of the energy crisis, saving energy always pays off – for your wallet and for the climate. You can start by checking out the easy-to-implement tips on our energy-saving page. If you need further support and professional expertise, you can contact the respective advice center in your district or arrange a free energy consultation with the Verbraucherzentrale Berlin. Please be aware that most consultations are only offered in German language.

  • Is heating with electricity a worthwhile alternative to gas heating?

    No. In view of high gas prices, it is natural to consider using other heating sources. However, electric heating is not a good alternative here. Heating with electricity is still significantly more expensive than heating with gas. In addition, fan heaters are inefficient and only suitable for small areas; the same applies to infrared heaters. In addition, Berlin’s power grid is not designed for a large number of electric heaters used in parallel. If too many electric heaters are used at the same time, the power grid could become overloaded.

  • Do I need to have the efficiency of my gas heating checked?

    According to experts, many gas heating systems in Germany are not optimally adjusted and consume unnecessary amounts of energy. Since October 1, 2022, owners of buildings with gas heating in Germany are required to have their heating systems checked. Thus also in Berlin all gas heatings must be examined whether they are energy-saving enough adjusted.

    The efficiency check of gas heating systems is part of the federal government’s measures to secure the energy supply in the current gas shortage situation. It is regulated in a federal ordinance (EnSimiMaV). According to § 2 of the ordinance, all gas heating systems in Germany must be inspected to determine whether they are set to be energy-efficient enough. If the inspection reveals that the current settings cause unnecessary energy losses, building owners are required to have the necessary adjustments made to the heating system settings by September 15, 2024 at the latest.

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