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Economy

Gas or Pass? Heat or Eat? Greek’s High-Cost Energy Dilemma

ATHENS – Electricity bills in Greece have nearly doubled, as they have soared across the European Union in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and natural gas prices this winter could be 600 percent higher, leaving Greeks the prospect of paying or going cold.

The New Democracy government that has pumped subsidies into helping struggling households pay their electric bills estimates the cost of natural gas increases and said state coffers would be strained on two fronts.

That contradicts estimates that the economy, on the back of what could be another record year despite the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, will grow at least 4 percent this year, indicating there would be plenty of money.

The government said the cost of heating oil and natural gas would jump as much as 6 billion euros ($5.98 billion) this year with the price of heating oil that was 1.16 euros ($1.16 billion) in 2021 seen being as much as 1.70 euros ($1.69 billion) this year, out of reach for many vulnerable households.

It’s even worse for natural gas with the price rising from 6 euros ($5.98) per kilowatt hour to 24 euros ($23.90,) a 400 percent increase that will leave the choice of going without heat and reducing use of the stove.

Households use more than 25 percent of the natural gas consumption in Greece, said Kathimerini in a report on the problem for the government as it faces a re-election campaign in 2023 and doesn’t want to lose voters.

While the government has promoted a campaign to use less energy, including reducing the use of air conditioning – subsidies to buy new, more efficient devices won’t be available until nearly the winter though – there isn’t a quick or easy solution or alternative.

But massive state subsidies for electric bills are saving the day for people who were getting bills as high as 750 euros ($746.93) or more a month – more than salaries for some, and some could wind up paying less than in 2021.

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