Due to a lack of money, thousands of families in Flanders sometimes have to do without electricity or gas for hours, in some cases even days. This is evident from figures from the Flemish energy regulator Vreg. In winter, even cold is suffered to avoid high bills.
Anyone who cannot pay their energy bill in Flanders ends up with the network operator. If there are still payment difficulties, a budget meter is installed. These budget meters are now digital. The families then have to charge it themselves, with a prepaid function.
But figures from the Vreg show that these families do not always have money to charge the budget meters and thus to consume electricity and natural gas. Of the more than 18,000 activated digital budget meters, it happened about 9,000 times in 2020 in more than 1,900 of the meters that the families did not charge and therefore had no electricity. In other words, this means that about 10 percent of families with activated digital budget meters will have lived without electricity on average 5 times in 2020. “Remarkably high”, says the Vreg. For most, that lasted less than a day, but in 10 percent of that group, the self-closure lasted more than a day.
For natural gas, the figures are even higher. Here, more than a third (37 percent) of the families sometimes disconnected from the meter, and this on average four times. In a third of the cases this was longer than 24 hours. Striking: this mainly happens in the coldest months. “We can therefore assume that a lot of families suffer from the cold in the winter in order to avoid high energy bills,” concludes de Vreg.
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