‘Semi off-grid’: Readers’ tips for coping with expensive energy bills in Denmark

Danish homes are set to see energy costs go up this winter. We asked our readers for their tips on limiting the damage of costly bills.

'Semi off-grid': Readers' tips for coping with expensive energy bills in Denmark
Adapting cooking habits is one of several areas in which savings can be made to help deal with expensive energy, our readers in Denmark said. Photo by Uwe Conrad on Unsplash

The cost of both gas and electricity is high in Denmark as inflation and the Russian invasion of Ukraine combine to increase the price of gas, affecting energy costs across the board.

The government has sent money to some homes impacted by high gas prices and parliament is discussing other measures, while public buildings are set to see thermostats turned down and outside illumination switched off.

While government action could provide some relief, there are things that can be done by private individuals to limit power use and therefore keep costs down.

As we’ve previously written about, tracking the cost of power and using appliances like washing machines and dishwashers at night could help to limit bills.

READ ALSO: How much will Danish energy bills go up this winter?

“See which electricity provider you are using. The different providers, their offers and conditions can be examined at,” advised Maksim.

“Switch off the Wi-Fi during the night,” said Lasani.

One reader, Cornelia, provided us with a bullet-point list of energy and money-saving tips that could help to balance budgets if bills go up.

These include the following:

  • Air homes with heating off and windows wide open, then close windows, not leaving them ajar
  • Dry clothes hanging up, no drier
  • Cook with vegetables, cut down on expensive processed food
  • Consider cutting down on meat, which is both expensive and energy intensive
  • Use an eco dishwasher programme which cleans just as well but takes longer
  • Don’t wash too much by hand – the dishwasher saves water
  • Defrost that fridge

She also advocated buying “reconditioned phones and tablets instead of new [ones], you save money and rare earth elements – and do you really need the newest tech gadget anyway?”

“Buy second hand: clothes, furniture, etc,” she also wrote, noting that “excellent quality” can be found in charities stores such as Red Cross, particularly in affluent areas.

Another reader said they had spent a year living a “semi off-grid life”, which they said kept electricity bills to a negligible amount of 50-100 kroner per month.

To do this, the reader said they lived in a campingvogn (caravan) “for a year as a semi off-grid life, no heater. I turned the light on only when I must read, dress up, eat or cook,” they said.

“At night, I slept inside a sub-zero sleeping bag. I didn’t use the fridge, I only bought fresh food that is enough to eat each day via the TooGoodToGo app, or otherwise, I put the fresh food in a plastic box and left the food outdoor because it is very cold,” they explained.

“I used a torch many times because I tried to use as (little) electricity as I can. I only used electricity when I needed to cook, charge my phone and my computer. I took a shower at the gym. Washed clothes with my hands and hung them outdoors,” they said.

“If anybody finds my real-life experiences are useful, they are welcome to use it,” they said.

Doing all of the above and going partially “off grid” might represent a significant and perhaps impracticable change in lifestyle for most people, but other readers who contacted us mentioned elements of it in their own strategies.

“Turn off the electric stove little early. The stove will release enough heat to finish up the cooking and save electricity,” Lalitha wrote.

“If we start using induction cooker (not rice cooker) it will save lot of cooking time and hence it is cost effective too,” wrote Swati.

Heating can be made more efficient by keeping doors closed as well as windows, Rahool noted.

“Use appliances at night. Do not mow lawns. Use public transport. Instead of vacuum cleaners, clean homes with brooms. Reduce water consumption,” he also advised.

“Don’t turn on the thermostat unless it’s freezing cold. Keep the windows closed and wear more clothes. If you have space, do a bit of yoga or exercise which requires engaging your muscles. It’ll really heat you up,” an anonymous reader chimed in.

“Turn off the heat when you leave the house and if possible turn it on slightly before you come home so that you don’t go to extreme heat when you come home,” they said.

“Try to use the kettle and other stuff when everyone needs hot water, so you don’t heat it again and again,” they further recommended.

Cooking outside was the recommendation of another reader, although this step could prove more tricky as the weather becomes autumnal.

“When it was really hot this summer, we started barbecuing enough meat to use throughout the week so we wouldn’t need to turn on the oven, and discovered how much energy we saved. We are now doing that more regularly to save on bills,” they said.

Many thanks to all readers who took the time to send their tips and advice to us.

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‘There’s not enough gas in the world’: Can Europe keep the heating on this winter?

Without Russian supplies there is simply not enough gas in the world, analysts say. The key to Europe getting through the winter will be the weather.

'There's not enough gas in the world': Can Europe keep the heating on this winter?

Europe is likely to scrape through this winter without cutting off gas customers despite reduced Russian supplies, but even adjusting to colder homes and paying more may not be enough in coming years, analysts say.

“I like a hot house, I have to admit… I really used a lot of gas,” said Sofie de Rous, who until this year kept her home on the Belgian coast at a toasty 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit).

But like millions of other Europeans, the 41-year-old employee at an architectural firm has had to turn down the thermostat after energy prices surged following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Russia’s progressive reduction of gas supplies to Europe via pipeline triggered a bidding war for liquefied natural gas (LNG), sending prices sharply higher.

If certain countries like France and Spain froze prices for consumers, others like Belgium let suppliers more or less pass along the higher costs.

“I was a little panicked in the beginning,” said de Rous, who saw the gas bill to heat her 90-square-metre (970-square-foot) house in Oostduinkerke jump from 120 euros ($126) per month to 330 euros.

She has lowered her thermostat to 18 degrees and is looking into installing double-pane windows and a solar panel.

Like de Rous, the lack of concern about energy consumption of a whole generation of Europeans ended abruptly in 2022, and everyone is mindful of where their thermostat is set.

If previously natural gas was cheap and plentiful, it is now scarce and expensive.

The European wholesale reference price used to fluctuate little, hovering around €20 per megawatt hour. This year, it shot as high as €300 before dropping back to around €100.

“It’s the most chaotic time I’ve witnessed in all of those years,” Graham Freedman, a European gas analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, told AFP.

Big drops in consumption

Sky-high energy prices have caused numerous factories, particularly in Germany’s chemicals sector which was highly dependent upon cheap Russian gas, to halt operations.

But European nations were able to fill their gas reservoirs and no one has been cut off yet.

“Until February, the very idea of Europe without Russian energy was seen as impossible,” said Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels.

“What was impossible became possible.”

A warm autumn that allowed many consumers to put off turning on their heating also helped put Europe in a better position for the winter.

But Europeans have also made dramatic cuts, with the EU using 20 percent less gas between August and November compared with the average gas consumption for the same months in 2017-2021, according to Eurostat.

In Germany, where half the households use gas for heat, data shows consumption down by 20 to 35 percent depending on the week.

“That’s much more than anyone expected,” said Lion Hirth, a professor of energy policy at the Hertie School in Berlin.

“And that’s completely contradictory to the talk that we’ve been hearing from doomsday talkers saying people just don’t respond.”

Energy bills are likely to remain high, and experts say a cap on gas prices agreed by the EU in December will only have a limited impact on bringing them down.

In the space of several months Russia has lost its top gas customer, Europe, with purchases passing from 191 billion cubic metres in 2019 to 90 billion this year.

Wood Mackenzie forecasts deliveries will fall to 38 billion cubic metres next year.

The EU has been able to import large quantities of LNG, but only by outbidding South Asian nations like Pakistan and India.

This has pushed these nations to increase their dependence on coal — negatively impacting global efforts to curb climate change.

In 2023?

Europe’s ability to import LNG has been limited by a lack of infrastructure. Port terminals capable of transforming the liquid in tankers back into gas and reinjecting it into pipelines are needed.

The continent’s top economy, Germany, scrambled to inaugurate its first facility in December, while plans for 26 new terminals have been announced across Europe, according to Global Energy Monitor.

And while the construction of more LNG terminals is underway, in 2023, unlike at the beginning of this year, Europe will mostly have to do without Russian gas to fill its reservoirs.

This could set up an even fiercer bidding war between European and Asian nations for supplies.

An EU gas price cap of 180 euros per megawatt hour that is scheduled to go into effect in February will likely have little impact in this case as it will not go into force if LNG prices are also high.

“The key factor is most certainly going to be: what is the weather going to be like this winter,” said Laura Page, a gas analyst at commodity data firm Kpler.

“If we have a cold winter in Asia, and we have a cold winter in Europe… this fight will intensify.”

The problem is that LNG supplies are limited.

“There isn’t enough gas in the world at the moment to actually cope with that loss of supply from Russia,” said Wood Mackenzie’s Freedman.

New LNG projects to boost supply won’t be able to come online before 2025, meaning Europeans will have to get used to living with homes heated to just 18 degrees.