High cost of energy
Shivering on the couch together
When Wessel Onnes first moved into his student house in January 2018, the communal energy bill was 360 euros a month. That amount increased a little every year, but that was to be expected, and he and his housemates could manage it. Until this October. ‘Suddenly the bill doubled from 480 to 960 euros.’
‘It might be the end of our student house’, the business administration student says. One of his housemates already decided to move out. ‘He told us it was way too expensive and it wasn’t going to work. I totally get him, it just sucks.’
Hoeveel is jouw rekening gestegen, vergeleken met oktober vorig jaar?
How much has your monthly energy cost increased, compared to October last year?
Winter is approaching fast and Groningen students are hit hard by the high energy prices, an online survey by UKrant indicates. Of the 271 respondents, 57 percent say their energy costs have increased by at least half and 29 percent say they’ve more than doubled. Over a quarter of the respondents pay more than 125 euros a month.
My housemates refuse to change their habits
A Xior tenant saw her monthly energy bill skyrocket from 70 to 190 euros. Another student mentions a rise from 43 cents per cubic metre of gas to 2.50 euros. And yet another went from 60 to 450 euros per month and faces a supplementary payment of 6,000 euros.
Almost 75 percent of respondents say they’re having more trouble paying the rent, with 28.5 percent having a lot more trouble and 5 percent saying they can’t afford their rent anymore.
To make matters worse, many of them feel they can hardly influence their situation. They live together with many other students and share the bill, while their housemates may not care as much about saving money as they do. Close to 60 percent say they have little to no trust in their housemates’ willingness to reduce their energy usage.
Als je je energierekening deelt, denk je dan dat je huisgenoten proberen energie te besparen?
If your energy bill is shared, do you think the others (e.g. your housemates) are trying to save energy?
‘I try to be very attentive with turning off the heating, taking shorter showers and other things to save money’, one student says. ‘But they are much less involved, or not at all. In the end, the bill is shared by three and I also pay their costs.’
‘My housemates turn the heating up to the maximum, leave the water running, leave the lights on’, says another. ‘I’ve tried raising the issue with them, but they refuse to change their habits.’
In the larger apartment buildings, people are perhaps even less inclined to be considerate. ‘Before we had to pay dramatically high fees for energy, a lot of students were proud of wasting air conditioning, because they felt others would pay for their usage’, another Xior tenant says. ‘The policy of sharing the bill for private energy use is a huge bug. It encourages people to waste energy.’
Still, there are also student houses that do try to save energy as much as possible. Those are the houses where people know each other better and socialise together. ‘We have clear arrangements about that’, says a student. ‘And we stick to them.’
A lot of students were proud of wasting air conditioning
Student houses that do try to cut costs have done without heating as long as they could. ‘Even though that means it is very damp’, a student says.
Some only use the heating for a few hours a day, while others only use electrical heating and don’t let the temperature rise above 16 or 17 degrees Celsius. Respondents also indicated they take shorter showers or cold showers, or that they shower at the ACLO sports centre.
Helpt je huisbaas je om je energieverbruik omlaag te brengen?
Did your landlord(s) do anything to help you cope with the energy use?
Making things more difficult is that landlords often do not take their responsibility. Only 14 percent of the respondents say their landlord has helped them out, for example by providing foil for the windows, or even insulating the windows or the roof. The other 86 percent have landlords that leave their tenants quite literally out in the cold.
‘I think my housemates waste a lot of energy, but that’s also because the house itself is a big joke, with single glazing and holes everywhere and doors that won’t close’, one student says. ‘Then you can’t really expect us to think carefully about our energy use.’
Wessel has the same problem. ‘There is no insulation, no solar panels, there are cracks everywhere and it’s draughty. It is too bizarre for words’, he says. ‘The landlord does nothing and we are the ones facing the consequences.’ His landlord sent a handyman to check if the insulation could be improved, but it was a no: ‘He told us that it can’t be fixed, but you can hear the wind whistling.’
Lidia Nikolova, first-year student of communication and information studies, is now paying around 700 euros a month for her 20-square-metre studio, which does not have a toilet. ‘Our heating only works two hours per day’, she says. ‘Our hot water usually has no pressure, and the Wi-Fi is also often down. I can’t imagine why I’m paying this much for energy.’
Heb je moeite om je huur te betalen?
Are you having trouble paying your rent?
For most landlords, the easiest response to higher energy costs is to raise the rent in some way. When medical student Kim Kloppenburg (20) first moved into her house, the rent she paid included electricity and gas, but recently her landlord told her to contract her own energy supplier. ‘Now we pay 760 euros a month for energy, divided over four people. That’s almost 200 euros per person! Gas prices have become so expensive. And our landlord refuses to support us in any way.’
The landlord does nothing and we are the ones facing the consequences
What adds to students’ stress is the constant uncertainty. 79 percent of respondents indicate they have no idea how much energy they use. Most of them never see the actual bill, or know how much turning the heating down or taking quicker showers affects the total. And those who do receive the bill often have trouble figuring out what it says.
‘A lot of information about my energy bills is hard to understand’, Iris Volders (23) says. She’s a single mother who studies spatial planning. ‘There is a calculator on the energy company’s website that I use to calculate my energy bill, but it’s only an estimate. I also got an email with a price table and I need to multiply those numbers by some value… It is almost unreadable.’
The result is that students are very worried about their immediate future. 62 percent say they are extremely worried, 33 percent at least a little. ‘I still have my parents to help me financially’, Kims says. ‘But my roommate has to earn every penny herself. She has lots of stress about how she’s going to make ends meet. If prices keep increasing, she won’t be able to.’
Maak je je zorgen over de stijgende energiekosten?
Do the rising costs for energy worry you?
She hopes their landlord will show pity. ‘And the government needs to take measures to make student houses more energy-efficient. Students need to be protected; this is no longer affordable.’
Wessel agrees that the government needs to take action: ‘It would be great if students were entitled to certain benefits, because everything is already so expensive. I really hope they can do something about the energy allowance and that the prices will be regulated.’
Iris has little confidence things will change for the better, though. ‘Take the price ceiling. They talk a good game, but they can’t promise they’ll actually deliver on it.’ Iris gives a thumbs down. ‘In reality, that’s all you can expect.’