Flemings shop around for energy

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A survey conducted by the Flemish Regulator for the Electricity and Gas market VREG shows that an increasing number of Flemish consumers are changing their electricity and natural gas supplier. The 250,000 households who changed their electricity supplier and 160,000 households who changed their gas supplier constitute 8% of all consumers. The V-test module consumers can access on the VREG website to change from consumer was consulted almost 2 million times this year. Moreover the annual VREG survey among 1,000 households and 1,000 businesses show that only 56% of the respondents are satisfied with their standard supplier compared to last year’s 75%. One third of the respondents had no intention of changing.  44% could not be bothered with the red tape it involves. This consumer trend has had quite an impact on the market share of the biggest player, Electrabel Customer Solutions, which saw its share drop by almost 3% to 61.95%. Meanwhile many of the smaller suppliers, like Essent RWE and Lampiris, and even Octa+ and Belpower, have surged ahead. Most households are happy with the service quality of their energy suppliers, but price remains a problem. The VREG survey shows that the electricity and gas bill of the average Flemish household is now on a par with Wallonia and the Netherlands, and totals 2,300 euros per annum 750 euros for electricity and 1,550 for gas. Since the liberalisation of the energy market in 2004, the electricity bill continues to increase, with the cost of energy rising as fast as distribution rates, high tension grid manager Elia’s share and additional levies and taxes. Among the consumers the mistaken idea prevails that these hikes are mainly caused by the additional 'public' costs, VREG’s managing director André Pictoël regrets. These expenses do in fact constitute about half of the said energy electricity bill of 750 euros. In keeping with state reform, VREG has committed itself  to taking over Flanders’ energy rates' policy from the federal regulator CREG; possibly by 2014.

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