Prepayment Metering for Electricity

Results of the first scientific study on the use of prepaid meters

  • News 29.11.2018

Private electricity consumption accounts for a significant proportion of a household's total expenditure. At the same time, the supply of electricity is an important prerequisite for a humane existence and for social participation in modern societies. The availability of electricity can therefore also be regarded as the basis of social organisation.

The increase in household expenditure on electricity in Germany by around 95 percent between 1997 and 2017 has led to increasing indebtedness on the part of utilities, resulting in almost 344,000 power cuts (around 14,000 more than in the previous year) according to the Federal Network Agency's monitoring report, which became public last week. Many households suffer from increased electricity costs and an increasing loss of real income. Taking inflation into account, the purchasing power of the money available to them decreases. The increase in state transfer payments in Germany was not sufficient to keep pace with the rise in energy costs. If one compares the development of the various incomes with the development of electricity prices in recent years, it becomes clear that pensioners and recipients of unemployment benefits are particularly hard hit by the rise in electricity prices.

In order to prevent the electricity supplier from interrupting the electricity supply due to high arrears, numerous energy suppliers offer their customers so-called prepaid meters: Customers* can top up their credit in the same way as with mobile phones. The amount charged is reduced to the extent that electricity is used for electrical applications.  

Since the phenomenon of energy poverty in Germany is still quite recent, the number of prepaid meters is also low. Experience in this area is correspondingly scarce and political awareness of the problem is also low. For this reason, Oliver Wagner, Project Co-ordinator of the Energy, Transport and Climate Policy Division at the Wuppertal Institute, and Julia Wiegand, Graduate Research Assistant at the Wuppertal Institute, have published a paper in which they present the results of Germany's first scientific survey on experiences with the use of prepaid meters.

The complete article "Prepayment metering: Household experiences in Germany" has been published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews and can be found on ScienceDirect and under the following link.