The best electricity provider in Germany for you – comparing, finding, signing-up
Of all the things you should do to land on your two feet here, picking a German electricity provider isn’t probably high on your list. And that’s basically fine. Nobody will cut your access to energy if you don’t take care of that. So go on & take care of more urgent matters. Once it’s done, come back here; read how to change electricity providers in Germany & save hundreds of euros every year. The best part? That only takes a few minutes.
Like you, I also decided to take the matter in my own hands.
Based on research and experience, this guide takes you through this process. At the end of it, you will how to find the best electricity provider for you, which information you need to make a switch, where to find good rates & how to get service in English.
What happens if you don’t switch electricity providers in Germany
Let me reassure you in case you completely forgot to open an account with a German energy supplier. You will still have access to electricity in your new place. They don’t just cut the power when the previous tenant has left the place. They actually have to provide uninterrupted service by law (EnWG § 36 Grundversorgungspflicht).
This means what your local standard provider (“Grundversorger“) will take over (in Berlin: Vattenfall), based on their unilateral contract conditions. This is often less than ideal. You don’t have a say about conditions, prices or energy mix!
Eventually, you will receive a letter from this local provider, asking you to pay. In this document, you simply state when you moved in, and you will have to pay whatever was used since then. You can cancel this standard contract within 2 weeks’ notice, as defined by law. This makes it easier to change & find better electricity rates across Germany.
The sign-up process with a German electricity provider
Before we go in the nitty-gritty details of comparing & switching. Let me zoom back a minute and take you through the usual steps involved with signing-up for a new supplier.
- You find an offer that matches your needs by providing an estimate for your consumption.
- You conclude a contract with your preferred provider.
- You provide information about your electricity meter (“Stromzähler“) to your new provider. (here is how)
- Your new provider notifies your old provider of the switch. There is no need to cancel the contract yourself.
- You prepay your consumption in installments during the first year.
- After the first year, your provider has enough historical data to assess your real consumption. This may result in a refund if you used less than expected. Your new installments will be adjusted accordingly.
Where to find your electricity meter
Your electricity meter may be in different locations in your building, depending on the type of building.
In most cases if you live in a flat, it is located in the cellar, probably locked in a separate room. Your landlord or your caretaker (“Hausmeister-in“) has the key to access it. It’s usually part of the move-in process to take a a look at it. If it was not done then, simply ask one of those persons to open the door for you.
It looks like this:
In a house, it is sometimes hidden behind a panel or away in the garage. Your provider will ask for for the 6 small numbers in front of the red one.
Comparing electricity providers in Germany
Leading electricity suppliers in Germany are Vattenfall, E.ON, Lekker Energie, RWE, Yellow Strom & MVV. There are however thousands of providers on the market. They all rely on the same national energy grid. They compete on price but also on energy mix options (renewable, coal, nuclear), supplier policy (small farmer’s solar array, massive off-shore wind farms) & sometimes beliefs (vegan suppliers, cooperatives, etc).
As you can tell, the market is very fragmented so it’s not easy to get an overview.
- Enter your postal code & number of persons in the household.
- Further refine the search results by additional options. Those usually are:
- Contract duration (Vertragslaufzeit), usually 12 or 24 months.
- Renewable energy mix only (Öko)
- With/out new client bonus (Sofortbonus, Wechselbonus). More on this below.
- With/out price guarantee (Preisgarantie). More on this below.
- Customer satisfaction rate (Kundenbewertung or Weiterempfehlung)
- Select the offer matching your criteria
- Enter your details on the platform. This includes payment details too. Only German bank accounts are accepted.
- Receive confirmation from the platform via email.
- Receive confirmation from the new provider via email or by post.
As a way to attract new customers in, many German energy suppliers will try to seduce you with 3 arguments mentioned in the list above: new contract bonuses & price guarantees. Both together often paint a misleading picture of the actual price, as platforms tend to include them in the calculation shown on screen.
About new client bonuses
This one is fairly common and can also be found in other sectors such as banking for example. Very simply put; they give you money when you become their customers. It’s called “Sofortbonus“, “Neukundebonus” or “Startbonus” The idea is that even though they lose a little bit of money short-term, you customer lifetime value will offset that little amount. Although it can sometimes be very alluring to be given 100€ “for free” just to open a new contract, i would focus my selection criteria on other aspects of the service, especially the long-term costs.
Also be aware that this bonus usually only comes with the first bill. In other words, it’s more of a discount than cash in your hands.
About switching bonuses
They are basically the same as new client bonuses. You are “rewarded” for switching suppliers with immediate payouts/discounts anywhere between 60 & 120€. Again, this is probably not the first thing to consider to pick your German electricity contract.
About price guarantees
This argument is much more interesting from a customer point of view. We all know that the prices for electricity fluctuates a lot and tends over time to increase by a fair margin. This is due to investment in renewable energies, sharp demand and also the fact there is really no choice; electricity is vital for all of us. German electricity suppliers will then offer you a price guarantee over a certain period of time, during which there will be no increase in price paid per Kwh. This period of time usually varies between 2 or 3 years.
How prices shown are artificially lower than what you are getting
Platforms have refined their devilish UX craft for years. They happily show incredible prices, right in the middle of the screen, with tiny tiny asterisks (*) next to it. That is often because the price shown on screen is the price of your contract, after all discounts & rebates.
The catch is: this price is often only valid for the first year. Past this first year, your bills might increase considerably.
This is why: chose your German electricity provider carefully & read carefully what you sign-into with the help of Chrome’s built-in translation option.
English-speaking friendly options to consider
Electricity providers in Germany that cater to the English-speaking crowd are a rare breed. Some historic utility companies do provide some level of support via phone, but contracts, letters & emails are all in German.
To my knowledge, the only 100% English-speaking electricity provider in Germany is Ostrom. They have listened to the pain-points of foreigners in Germany and provide the following benefits:
- App, emails, customer support: everything is available in English.
- Monthly contracts possible: no need to stay locked-in for years.
- 100% renewable energy.
- 100% digital experience.
- Transparent fees.
Know this before picking a new provider
How billing works the first year
Electricity providers in Germany don’t communicate consumption figures with one another. This means that everytime a client picks a new provider, the first year will be billed based on estimates. After the first year is up, your provider will have enough history to measure your actual electricity usage during the year.
This is why you may get money back (or pay more) at this point. You may have used less (or more) than the initial estimate. After the first year, in the new billing cycle, your provider will adjust your rate lower or higher, based on the data at hand.
Electricity bills in Germany in a flat share, short-term rentals, in a sublet
Electricity bills in a flatshare are shared between roommates, with one person signup for a contract (usually the main tenant).
In the case of a sublet or short-term rentals, those costs are almost always included in the Nebenkosten, and you don’t need to signup for a contract of your own.
Picking providers that are only using 100% renewable energy
You can use filters on Verivox or Preisverlgeich to get to contracts only supporting solar, wind and other renewable sources. German electricity providers are still big on coal and gas, but there federal nature of the country has created regional champions pushing for better options than that. It’s quite a rich offer if you want to support German electricity suppliers with that in mind. Ostrom also only provides electricity from renewable sources.
Some fine prints to pay attention to when picking your contract
- Pay attention to the duration of the contract and the conditions under which it can be terminated. If most energy suppliers in Germany have yearly contracts, it doesn’t mean you can cancel at anytime. i:e: even it can be terminated on a monthly basis, the contract still runs for another year or until the next contract renewal date. This is usually less of a concern with the options listed above.
- Make sure to set your installments properly. It’s easier to pay your bills on monthly or quarterly basis than to get a massive yearly bill.
Vocabulary you might encounter during the sign-up process
- Postleitzahl : your postal code
- Verbrauch : your estimated consumption at home.
- Vertragslaufzeit : Contract duration.
- Mindestlaufzeit : Minimum contract duration.
- Verlängerung : Duration of the contract when (automatically) renewed
- Kündigungsfrist : Notice period – how much time in advance should the supplier be noticed of contract termination.
- Preisgarantie – Preisfixierung : Price guarantee as mentioned above (for x amount of months)
- Vorauskasse : Payment in advance (not advised, prefer monthly installments, see “Abschläge”).
- Nutzung : Is this contract for your house (Privat) or your office – commercial (Gewerbe) space ?
- Ökostrom : Electricity coming from renewable power production such as wind or solar plants.
- Abschlagszahlung – Abschläge : Installments intervals
- Sofortbonus & Neukundenbonus : Bonuses for signing up a new contract.
Average electricity costs in Germany
In 2022, the average cost was 0,407€/kWh. As you can tell from the graph below, the price per kWh has steadily been increasing since 2010. The current energy crisis is not going to help but a price brake has been vote in the German parliament to help soften the blow.
For households and smaller businesses, the so-called price brake will come into effect in March 2023. It will function retroactively from January until April 2024, capping electricity at 40 cents for 80% of usage based on last year’s consumption.
A 2020 study estimated the yearly costs to be about 415€ per head, with about 1300 kWh used.
Terminating your contract with your current provider
I made a dedicated guide to cover which situations lets you terminate your contract early and what you should do in that situation: how to cancel your electricity contract in Germany.
How much I saved by switching electricity providers
Here is my situation:
- I live together with my wife & 2 children in a 89m2 Altbau.
- We use electricity for the usual appliances, phones, computers, etc.
- We both work from home on a regular basis.
- Hot water comes from a tankless heater & we cook with an electric stove.
- We use our washing machine on a daily basis (kids & all that).
We were with E.on before and paid around 85€ per month. After we changed, we only paid around 65€ per month. That’s a hefty 240€ saved every year!
I hope this guide on how to find the best electricity provider in Germany for your needs was helpful. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments. I answer each and every one of them.Bastien
Electricity providers in Germany – FAQ
In 2020, the costs per person for electricity is about 415€ per year in Germany.
All electricity providers use the same national grid to deliver energy to your home. This means they are all reliable. Picking the best provider for you depends on some criteria. Are you driven by low-prices first? More interested in supporting local energy suppliers? Renewable energy? Is English-support a must? With the guide above, you will be able to decide which is best for you.
If you just moved in, the previous tenant took their contract with them when moving out. If you don’t take any further action, you will receive a letter from the local default provider (Grundversorger). There is nothing wrong with that, however electricity rates are often cheaper with competition especially with price guarantees & bonuses. Many don’t bother switching supplier, costing them hundred of euros.
When signing up for a new contract, your new provider will notify the previous one that the contract has changed hands.
In 2020, clean energy sources (wind farms and solar arrays as well as hydroelectric and biogas plants) accounted for up to 45 percent of all electricity production.
When switching to a new provider, it will be taken care of for you. No need to cancel the contract with your old provider. If you move out of Germany forever, you can make use of special termination rights (“Sonderkündigung”) to end your contract early.
You can use end your contract early after a price increase.
Yes, hours between midnight & 5 am are the cheapest, when demand is low.