City government rolls out low-income energy bill support package

Electricity transformer (photo is illustrative).
Electricity transformer (photo is illustrative). Source: Priit Luts/ERR

Residents of Tallinn living at or below the poverty line will be able to apply for energy bill support in a new scheme capital's city government announced Wednesday. The package is to be applied retroactively to bills dating back to September this year, around the time electricity and natural gas prices began to creep up.

The scheme will pay up to 80 percent of an energy bill, be it electricity, natural gas or district heating, and is open to applications, primarily online, from mid-January.

It will also operate in tandem with national schemes aimed at supporting

Electricity, natural gas and district heating (centrally-controlled apartment block heating which is generally piped in as hot water, usually the by-product of power stations' activity – ed.) prices have been soaring in recent weeks while meanwhile temperatures in Tallinn have been moving in the opposite direction.

Tallinn deputy mayor Betina Beškina (Center) said that: "The aim of the compensation is to help less well-off households to pay for increasing energy bills, so that their living standards will not deteriorate at an already difficult time.

"Residents can apply for the benefit to partially compensate for the costs incurred from September until March," Beškina added, via a city government press release.

"We will start accepting applications for support from mid-January at the latest, as the technical solutions and additional staff trained in the necessary skills should be in place by then. We will provide further guidance on the application procedure as soon as possible. Given that the number of potential beneficiaries in Tallinn is likely to exceed 15,000 families, the city will need to recruit and train new staff to process applications." Beškina continued.

The applications apply to electricity, gas and district heating costs in the capital and will be accepted from mid-January at the latest, for energy costs incurred in September, and in February for reimbursement of costs incurred from October onwards.

The benefit will be paid to individuals or families who have an average net income below the imputed relative poverty line set by the regulation – which for 2022 will be (figure refers to monthly take-home pay combined across all earners):

  • Single person living alone: €673.
  • Household of two adults: €1,009.
  • Household of two adults and two under-14s: €1,413.

The applicant must submit documentation showing the amount of energy consumed and the corresponding cost, after which the subsidy will be paid at 80 percent of the total energy price, the city government says

Consumption must be expressed in megawatt-hours or kilowatt-hours for local heating, while the amount of gas consumed may also be expressed in cubic meters.

In the case of housing association-provided apartment house heating which uses electricity or gas, compensation can also be applied for, by providing housing association consumption. In this case, the minimum subsidy is €10 and the maximum is €500 per application per month.

Electronic self-service was the preferred method for applying for the compensation, Beškina added, bearing in mind both the current low temperatures, the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that in practice many of those applying are likely to be elderly or from other at-risk groups.

Help from younger relatives or other carers would be most welcome in this case, Beškina added.

This system is not online yet, but will be, in time for the payouts to start, in mid-January, though in-person applications via the Tallinn district welfare department will also be possible, the city office says.

The maximum number of months that can be covered at a time is four, so to avoid red tape it is possible to apply for reimbursement for several months at once, if the applicant can afford to do so, the city government says

In October this year, the Reform/Center national government opted to pay compensation to low-income families to alleviate the increase in energy prices.

The compensation in this case will be covered from the revenue Estonia will receive from the trading in the European Union greenhouse gas emissions trading system (EU ETS), and is expected to amount to up to €37 million nationwide.

The government has assigned the task of distributing the compensation to local municipalities.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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