German utilities rule out power cuts to defaulting households during corona crisis
Tagesspiegel / Clean Energy Wire
Energy providers in Germany have said they will not cut off defaulting customers' electricity supply in the near future due to the exceptional situation caused by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. According to an article by Jakob Schland in the Tagesspiegel, almost all member companies of local utility association VKU said they would not interrupt supplies of electricity, natural gas and water for households with outstanding payments. VKU head Michael Wübbels said utilities should provide their services to citizens without interruption during a pandemic. Utility company EnBW also announced it will not block its customers' access to electricity and gas, and will also reverse power cuts that entered into effect over the past weeks. "Nobody must be without electricity during this crisis," the company said on its website.
Customer protection association Verbraucherzentrale NRW last week warned that a secure power supply for all households would be prerequisite for successful containment of the virus. According to association head Wolfgang Schuldzinski, social distancing and increased hygienic measures are the two most important measures for quelling the outbreak. "At a time when everyone is called upon to stay at home as much as possible and hygiene is essential, energy cuts are inappropriate," he said.
According to the Tagesspiegel, about 296,000 customers in Germany were affected by power cuts in 2018, while roughly 33,000 households were cut off from the gas supply that year. The cuts have to be announced four weeks in advance if households fail to cover their bills. A 2017 study conducted by the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) found that power cuts usually affect households in debt or in receipt of state benefits.