Study costs, rent, shopping. According to the Nibud (National Institute for Family Finance Information, in Dutch), students living independently spend EUR 1,031 every month on living expenses. And this will only increase as rising energy prices push up the energy bills in student houses.
Duwo, the student housing provider, recently announced that the service costs will be increased by an average of EUR 80 per month. The prices are also rising at other housing corporations such as Vestia. “Whether the prices rise and by how much, however, does depend on the individual house or building,” said a spokesperson.
According to Jolan de Bie, Director of the Kences umbrella organisation, student accommodation providers are doing their best to limit the increase in service costs. “But if the energy prices continue to rise for a long time, it is unavoidable.”
She too emphasises that the price rise will not be the same for everyone. “In part, it depends on how well a house is insulated.” She also says that it also depends on whether students have their own energy meters. “This is mostly the case in new studios, but there is often one shared bill in communal spaces.” So even if you shower quickly and put the heating on low, it will not help if your neighbours do not do so too.
Bachelor student Yongxing (Materials Science and Engineering) already notices it in her purse. She rents from a private individual and was recently forced to take on a new energy contract. “One of our housemates moved out and took the energy contract.” She previously paid EUR 100 a month for internet, energy and water, and the prices are now rising quickly. “Energy alone now costs EUR 165 a month. Our rent is EUR 530 per month and with this energy price rise, we are paying EUR 700 a month. This is ridiculous.”
‘We are thinking about showering at the X sports and culture centre’
The sudden price hike is eating up a large portion of Yongxing and her housemates’ budgets. “We will have to economise on food and other expenses. We have no choice. Finding a new place to live in this market is not an option and we cannot live without energy.”
Yongxing and her housemates need to save a lot. “The heating will be on the lowest setting this winter. And we are thinking about showering at the X sports and culture centre.”
To keep the costs low, TU Delft students can apply for a one-time energy rebate of EUR 1,300 from the Municipality (in Dutch). “Unfortunately, as non-Dutch students, we do not qualify for this.” The rebate is indeed subject to all sorts of conditions. One is that students need to receive a student grant, which international students are not entitled to. Another is that you can only apply for the rebate if you are aged 21 years or older, and your monthly income may not exceed EUR 1,322. Further, the municipality also takes account of the maximum amount that a student can borrow when assessing the income from student grants. Even if you are not entitled to it.
For now, the cabinet does not want to give students an energy surcharge, even though a Nijmegen student won a court case about it (in Dutch). According to the cabinet, that court case only showed that municipalities should offer their students a "reasonable alternative" in emergencies: individual special assistance.
For that alternative, the cabinet is allocating an extra 35 million euros. The cabinet hopes that with the special assistance, municipalities can prevent students from claiming the allowance en masse anyway.
For master’s student Aravind (Systems and Control, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science), the rising energy price was the reason to move out of his accommodation. “When the rent went up by almost EUR 50 a month, I had to give up the room. I could not pay it anymore.”
When looking for alternative accommodation, he quickly discovered that the costs were only going up. “If I found a room, I often had to arrange my own energy contract. Some suppliers estimated a monthly fee of EUR 200 to EUR 250. I cannot pay this on my own.”
A spokesperson from Essent, one of the largest energy suppliers in the Netherlands, confirms that it is not a good time for people with new or variable contracts. The company increased the prices twice over the last year, in January and in July. “And we cannot promise that we will not do it again,” said the spokesperson.
After a four month search, Aravind ultimately found a room in The Hague. He is trying to economise on food and other expenses. “I am cooking for myself more often and going out less.” He hopes that students will share tips on economising. “What appliances consume a lot of energy that you can turn off and what can you do yourself to insulate your room?”
- On 20 September, the cabinet announced that it had reached an agreement with energy companies on reducing energy bills. On 1 January, a price cap will come into effect that will apply at least until the end of 2023. The reduction for an average household is 2280 euros on an annual basis, according to the cabinet.
Delta (Marjolein van der Veldt) / HOP (Hein Cuppen, Bas Belleman)