The payment defaults at public utilities are still less than one percent. In view of the energy crisis, some municipal companies fear that this will soon change. The head of the association therefore insists on relieving the burden on customers - especially since he expects prices to continue to rise sharply.
With regard to the energy crisis, the municipal utilities in Germany are preparing for many payment defaults by their customers. "So far, the defaults have been less than one percent," said the general manager of the Association of Municipal Enterprises (VKU), Ingbert Liebing, to the newspapers of the Funke media group. However, many public utility companies have already calculated losses of up to eight and some up to 15 percent. "That's going to be threatening."
The Stadtwerke not only supply private households with energy, but also companies - they are also consumers themselves. In view of the currently high costs for the public utility company and the threat of payment defaults, Liebing warned of the financial difficulties of the suppliers. A relief program for customers is necessary and that has to happen "now in the fall and not just next year". A reduction in the state's share of energy costs and a targeted relief for everyone "just above the transfer receipt" are conceivable.
In addition, an insolvency moratorium for the energy suppliers is necessary, he said, pointing out that companies had also been caught in the corona pandemic. "Now we are talking about a critical situation for a critical infrastructure," he argued.
Liebing also warned consumers that there would still be significant price increases in the coming year. These are already "frequently between 30 and 60 percent", and some municipal utilities would have to more than double their prices. "Price increases are to be expected in the coming year as well, since the municipal utilities will procure gas over the long term," he said.
The VKU boss also warned of the risks of an electricity crisis: "We have to be careful that the problems we have in the gas sector are not transferred to the electricity sector." Currently, the price on the electricity market is determined by the so-called merit order principle and is based on the most expensive producing power plant - these are gas power plants. "Under the current circumstances, it is necessary to discuss pricing in the markets," Liebing said.
The mayor of Mainz, Michael Ebling, president of the VKU, called in the newspapers of the editorial network Germany for a "start-up fund" with at least 100 billion euros. The current situation of many municipal utilities is "highly toxic," he said, referring to liquidity bottlenecks, increased procurement costs and impending payment defaults. "Even the healthiest municipal companies could reach their limits." Bankruptcies threatened.
The President of the Association of German Cities and Mayor of Münster, Markus Lewe, jumped to the side of the public utilities. These must be “given a chance” and protected from bankruptcy, he said on ZDF on Tuesday evening. It has not yet really arrived that they are the basis for services of general interest. If they stopped working, the energy and water supply would be in danger.