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Jovialis
27-11-17, 20:52
This past week, my email inbox was flooded with shopping emails and notifications from retailers. A frenzy of buy, buy, prices slashed, 40% discount on clothes, shoes, fitness packages, hotel and airline deals, sports and home equipment, technology-- you name it and there was a deal to be had!

I'll admit it, I do love stuff! As far back as I can remember, books, music, and clothes have been my thing. I loved having more of them, and distinctly remember having a hard time throwing things away. "I may need it later", or "this will always be a memory of ..." were some of the things I used to say to justify holding onto things. And so, stuff started to mean something to me. And I found meaning in stuff.

Turns out, I am not alone in my love for objects. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced in May 2017 that total household debt in the United States surpassed the peak level of $12.7 trillion. Although a lot of this accounts for student debt (almost 10.6%), and housing loans (71%), 9.2% is accounted for by auto loans (people possibly buying cars they cannot afford) and 6.0% in credit card debt!

Scrolling through rows and rows of emails, I scrambled towards my favorite items, acknowledging how hard it is to resist checking out the deal and if it's worth spending the money. My friend, on the other hand, browses websites and looks for specific things he wants. This year, he is in the market for a LED smart TV, even though his other one works just fine.
It's no wonder that our spending habits tend to indicate an unhealthy obsession with acquisition. To want and own the next best thing, or the popular thing, or (at times) the expensive thing. Black Friday and Cyber Monday beckon to us as if they are a train we need to catch. Possessions tend to create the illusion of heralding our entry into the world. The "I've arrived" so to speak. The marker of our success and the source of unending joy and happiness. If only!

Because happiness seldom comes from things but from what they represent to us. Put another way, when we buy something, its value to us is more than the object's value itself. The bag is not just the bag but something that signals wealth, level of income, fashion mobility and more. The desire for a high-end wood burner in your home may come from the desire to be warm and comfortable but to buy the most elaborate, expensive one- suggests the need for love, protection and possibly approval and envy of others.

Identifying our relationship with the thing we are about to buy, means asking the why question. "why do I want to buy this?" and sometimes "why have I always wanted this?" If the thing we want makes us feel good about ourselves in some way, this can then be a starting point for introspection and the need to think about our reliance on external objects to influence internal satisfaction.

The same holds true of the gifts we buy others. What does the particular present say about our feelings towards the other? Is it coming from a place of shame, guilt, reconciliation or compensation (in some cases overcompensation).
So if like others, you've overindulged in shopping and gift buying this weekend and are ready to look more closely at your budget and shopping cart, here are some things to think about.

1. Is what I bought an essential or a want?

2. If this is truly a need, is there another alternative that I can be happy with? Maybe a prior model or less expensive version?

3. Do I actually believe that this "thing" will change the quality of my life in a way that I can afford in the long term?

4. Am I buying this (for myself or others) to distract or be rebellious towards other painful feelings I may be experiencing, such as emptiness, loss, grief, shame or guilt, instead of dealing and working through those feelings?

5. Am I making the choice to hold onto things as a way of finding meaning and value in my life?

6. Am I willing to live a life not encumbered and defined by "things"?

7. Can I derive some joy and satisfaction in knowing that the money I save keeps me from needing to work more, or have a second job?

These are questions you can ask yourself any time of the year when that desire to look for something big, shiny and new creeps up. Finding those receipts and heading towards returns and exchanges can be very empowering too. For me, it gives me the personal satisfaction of knowing that even though I may fall prey to the smart marketing, I still call the shots on my buying habits.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog...r-monday-crawl


Perhaps why some poorer people are spend thrifts may be due to feeling a lack of security; love; etc, as the article indicates. Thus they are more likely to charge or purchase expensive items to feel a sense of satisfaction from material possessions. Something I've noticed about very affluent people is that they tend to be very frugal. Perhaps because they don't need to suffice this lack of security.

Angela
27-11-17, 21:31
^^I did do some of my Christmas shopping this week-end. :) I love online shopping.

I didn't do some of it, though, because the best deals come at the end of the season. I guess you can tell from that I'm a frugal spender. My husband was always the spendthrift. He always said I was stingy because I'm part Ligurian, who are the by-word for cheapskates in Italy. :)

I'm not cheap with people I love, however, but instead am a very generous gift giver, and generous with food and drink with my guests. It's just that I believe in being a smart, comparison shopper, buying on sale where at all possible, and not spending more than is reasonable given my income. My modus operandi if I'd been in complete control would have been to save a certain percentage first and then to spend within reason. I've never once gone to those shopping networks, and never would.

Exactly like you, my weaknesses are books, music, and clothes. It also used to be things for my home. The latter is gone now, maybe because it's fully furnished. :) Yes, I've indulged myself in designer bags and scarfs and shoes, and pants, and on and on, but in my defense I still follow the Italian rule of buy less but buy good. My closet is not full of dozens of garbage, trendy pieces.

Cars, I don't care, as long as they get me from A to B and look decent. The same for electronics. I got one of the first I phones as a present and haven't changed it since. The same for the big screen tvs.

Oh, there's something else I spend money on, and that's travel, but I refuse to stay in over-priced hotels or eat in over-priced restaurants any longer.

I think for me possessions are more about intellectual satisfaction or because I love beautiful things than about impressing anyone or competing with anyone.

As for presents I've received, yes, it's nice to get beautiful jewelry, but the presents I cherish the most are the ones that show care, and time, and thoughtfulness. Back before I really used the internet a lot someone took my ratty, falling apart address book and phone directory and copied everything over into a brand new, beautiful one. I was so, so appreciative. Another time, my kids, before they were earning money, made a list of all the cleaning chores they knew I did in the spring time and showed me where they had divided up the chores between them. The first time they made me my favorite meal for my birthday is one of my best memories. Or, the times my husband took my parents with us on nice vacations. Those are the memories that I'll cherish in my heart forever.

Jovialis
27-11-17, 21:55
^^I did do some of my Christmas shopping this week-end. :) I love online shopping.
I didn't do some of it, though, because the best deals come at the end of the season. I guess you can tell from that I'm a frugal spender. My husband was always the spendthrift. He always said I was stingy because I'm part Ligurian, who are the by-word for cheapskates in Italy. :)
I'm not cheap with people I love, however, but instead am a very generous gift giver, and generous with food and drink with my guests. It's just that I believe in being a smart, comparison shopper, buying on sale where at all possible, and not spending more than is reasonable given my income. My modus operandi if I'd been in complete control would have been to save a certain percentage first and then to spend within reason. I've never once gone to those shopping networks, and never would.
Exactly like you, my weaknesses are books, music, and clothes. It also used to be things for my home. The latter is gone now, maybe because it's fully furnished. :) Yes, I've indulged myself in designer bags and scarfs and shoes, and pants, and on and on, but in my defense I still follow the Italian rule of buy less but buy good. My closet is not full of dozens of garbage, trendy pieces.
Cars, I don't care, as long as they get me from A to B and look decent. The same for electronics. I got one of the first I phones as a present and haven't changed it since. The same for the big screen tvs.
Oh, there's something else I spend money on, and that's travel, but I refuse to stay in over-priced hotels or eat in over-priced restaurants any longer.
I think for me possessions are more about intellectual satisfaction or because I love beautiful things than about impressing anyone or competing with anyone.
As for presents I've received, yes, it's nice to get beautiful jewelry, but the presents I cherish the most are the ones that show care, and time, and thoughtfulness. Back before I really used the internet a lot someone took my ratty, falling apart address book and phone directory and copied everything over into a brand new, beautiful one. I was so, so appreciative. Another time, my kids, before they were earning money, made a list of all the cleaning chores they knew I did in the spring time and showed me where they had divided up the chores between them. The first time they made me my favorite meal for my birthday is one of my best memories. Or, the times my husband took my parents with us on nice vacations. Those are the memories that I'll cherish in my heart forever.

I love buying nice clothing, kept all my books from college (never sold them back or rented them), and have a pretty extensive CD collection. Though, ever since Youtube got bigger, I haven't bought a CD since 2011. I also loved ripping my own CD compilations. Though I miss the days of going to a CD store, picking out a bunch of random CDs from bands of heard a couple songs from; and exploring the album. I'm also a pretty big spender when it comes to buying gifts for others. But I try to go for the sales as well. I bought my whole family 23andme kits; but that's also kind of for a selfish reason, since it's part of my hobby :) Nevertheless, I also bought my dad a nice pair of shoes, which I need to return, since they're too small for him. For my mother, I always give her a money gift, since she uses it towards her vacations. Last year, I bought her a 70 inch LED TV, that I got on a black Friday sale for her birthday. But that was also a quasi-gift for my brother and sisters, who still live at home for Christmas, since it's pretty close to that time.

After college, I treated myself like a Chinese factory worker, and was extremely frugal; paying back all of my loans in full. I rarely went out, and stayed in most of the time. I consider that to be a pretty good learning experience though, because I really started to appreciate the value of money. Though when I was done, I did treat myself to a nice vacation in the Dominican Republic, with my friends. Which was very cheap as well. All inclusive, at a pretty nice hotel.

Angela
27-11-17, 22:16
I love buying nice clothing, kept all my books from college (never sold them back or rented them), and have a pretty extensive CD collection. Though, ever since Youtube got bigger, I haven't bought a CD since 2011. I also loved ripping my own CD compilations. Though I miss the days of going to a CD store, picking out a bunch of random CDs from bands of heard a couple songs from; and exploring the album. I'm also a pretty big spender when it comes to buying gifts for others. But I try to go for the sales as well. I bought my whole family 23andme kits; but that's also kind of for a selfish reason, since it's part of my hobby :) Nevertheless, I also bought my dad a nice pair of shoes, which I need to return, since they're too small for him. For my mother, I always give her a money gift, since she uses it towards her vacations. Last year, I bought her a 70 inch LED TV, that I got on a black Friday sale for her birthday. But that was also a quasi-gift for my brother and sisters, who still live at home for Christmas, since it's pretty close to that time.

After college, I treated myself like a Chinese factory worker, and was extremely frugal; paying back all of my loans in full. I rarely went out, and stayed in most of the time. I consider that to be a pretty good learning experience though, because I really started to appreciate the value of money. Though when I was done, I did treat myself to a nice vacation in the Dominican Republic, with my friends. Which was very cheap as well. All inclusive, at a pretty nice hotel.

It seems we have similar habits. :) I hate owing money. Those credit card bills are paid at the end of every month. I also can't wait for the mortgage to be finished.

Maciamo
29-11-17, 08:18
^^I did do some of my Christmas shopping this week-end. :) I love online shopping.

I didn't do some of it, though, because the best deals come at the end of the season. I guess you can tell from that I'm a frugal spender. My husband was always the spendthrift. He always said I was stingy because I'm part Ligurian, who are the by-word for cheapskates in Italy. :)

I'm not cheap with people I love, however, but instead am a very generous gift giver, and generous with food and drink with my guests. It's just that I believe in being a smart, comparison shopper, buying on sale where at all possible, and not spending more than is reasonable given my income. My modus operandi if I'd been in complete control would have been to save a certain percentage first and then to spend within reason. I've never once gone to those shopping networks, and never would.

Exactly like you, my weaknesses are books, music, and clothes. It also used to be things for my home. The latter is gone now, maybe because it's fully furnished. :) Yes, I've indulged myself in designer bags and scarfs and shoes, and pants, and on and on, but in my defense I still follow the Italian rule of buy less but buy good. My closet is not full of dozens of garbage, trendy pieces.

Cars, I don't care, as long as they get me from A to B and look decent. The same for electronics. I got one of the first I phones as a present and haven't changed it since. The same for the big screen tvs.

Oh, there's something else I spend money on, and that's travel, but I refuse to stay in over-priced hotels or eat in over-priced restaurants any longer.

I think for me possessions are more about intellectual satisfaction or because I love beautiful things than about impressing anyone or competing with anyone.


You could not have described me better! It's just incredible, almost every sentence is exactly the way I feel and behave. The only difference is a gender one since I don't care about designer bags and scarfs and shoes, and always buy the same kind of clothes (once a wool jumper gets worn out, I buy the exact same one again). For clothes I also adhere to the adage buy less but buy good (I do buy brands, although during the sales). I am not even a (stereo)typical man since I don't care much about cars. Well, I did as a child and teenager, but I think it's stupid to waste vast sums of money on something that loses value so quickly. Since I don't drive much and I have no one to impress with such shallow things, I keep my car until it stops working and it's too expensive to fix. Car taxes and insurances are also such a money pit! Better get a cheaper car and spend the money on DNA tests or life experiences like travelling, which I have done a lot.

Maciamo
29-11-17, 08:23
It seems we have similar habits. :) I hate owing money. Those credit card bills are paid at the end of every month. I also can't wait for the mortgage to be finished.

Once again I completely agree. I felt sick once because I didn't notice that my new credit card was automatically not set to be paid 100% at the end of the month, but only on 10%, with interests to be paid on the remaining 90% the next month. It's not even because of sum it represented, which was trivial, but the principle of having to pay interests when it's unnecessary!

I dislike all kinds of waste, but particularly fossil fuel energy (gas, petrol, non-green electricity) as I am very concerned about the environment and global warming. I know that the world has gone awry when I see educated people who prefer to spend money first on polluting expensive cars (like a Porsche Cayenne, or worst of all a fuel-thirsty Hummer) before thinking of installing solar panels on their house. In fact solar panels have become so cheap that it should be a priority before evening buying a 3000€/$ TV or computer. I applaud Ikea's initiative to start selling affordable PV panels (http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/ikea/solar-panels/) (from about 4000€ for a family house), making it both easy and financially advantageous for almost anyone to install.

Angela
29-11-17, 20:50
Once again I completely agree. I felt sick once because I didn't notice that my new credit card was automatically not set to be paid 100% at the end of the month, but only on 10%, with interests to be paid on the remaining 90% the next month. It's not even because of sum it represented, which was trivial, but the principle of having to pay interests when it's unnecessary!

I dislike all kinds of waste, but particularly fossil fuel energy (gas, petrol, non-green electricity) as I am very concerned about the environment and global warming. I know that the world has gone awry when I see educated people who prefer to spend money first on polluting expensive cars (like a Porsche Cayenne, or worst of all a fuel-thirsty Hummer) before thinking of installing solar panels on their house. In fact solar panels have become so cheap that it should be a priority before evening buying a 3000€/$ TV or computer. I applaud Ikea's initiative to start selling affordable PV panels (http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/ikea/solar-panels/) (from about 4000€ for a family house), making it both easy and financially advantageous for almost anyone to install.

It's not the first time we've turned out to be pretty alike. :)

Interesting that you mention solar panels. Believe it or not I don't think I could install them on my current house because of zoning regulations. I don't know a single person who has them. Probably it has a lot to do with the fact that utilities are so much cheaper here than in Europe. They're still way too expensive though if you're talking about central heating and air for a big house in a major metropolitan area, and then add in all these big appliances. Then factor in the cable bill and the property taxes and school taxes in suburbs around major metro areas and you're still spending a fortune even if the mortgage is paid off. There's just so much expense and waste, and what are you getting for it?

I've been thinking lately about having a smaller house built on rural property (but near enough to the city to get in for cultural events) as my U.S. base, and making it as self-sufficient as possible. The idea really appeals to me. I'd like to have a really big organic vegetable garden too and some fruit trees.

Everyone thinks I'm becoming mad as a hatter. :)

My best friend asked if I'm turning into a survivalist! No, not yet...I just want to be independent and self-sufficient and choose the people I want to see.

davef
29-11-17, 21:14
Solar panels installed on any building makes it seem as if it's being converted into a top secret laboratory devoted to communicating with space aliens.

Maciamo
01-12-17, 20:18
It's not the first time we've turned out to be pretty alike. :)

Interesting that you mention solar panels. Believe it or not I don't think I could install them on my current house because of zoning regulations. I don't know a single person who has them. Probably it has a lot to do with the fact that utilities are so much cheaper here than in Europe. They're still way too expensive though if you're talking about central heating and air for a big house in a major metropolitan area, and then add in all these big appliances. Then factor in the cable bill and the property taxes and school taxes in suburbs around major metro areas and you're still spending a fortune even if the mortgage is paid off. There's just so much expense and waste, and what are you getting for it?

I've been thinking lately about having a smaller house built on rural property (but near enough to the city to get in for cultural events) as my U.S. base, and making it as self-sufficient as possible. The idea really appeals to me. I'd like to have a really big organic vegetable garden too and some fruit trees.

Everyone thinks I'm becoming mad as a hatter. :)

My best friend asked if I'm turning into a survivalist! No, not yet...I just want to be independent and self-sufficient and choose the people I want to see.

Solar panels are relatively common here. In my street many houses have them, but it's a particularly eco-conscious neighbourhood. Here a family home consumes about 4000 kWh of electricity per year, which costs about 1200€. A photovoltaic installation like the one proposed by IKEA covers all that electricity and can therefore be paid back in 4 or 5 years. After that it's all profit. So it is pretty interesting. I don't understand why everyone doesn't have PV panels under such circumstances.

The Belgian government has been encouraging people to improve their house insulation for many years with heavy subsidies (up to 50% of the bill). As a result many houses are very well insulated. But heating is still the biggest expense for most households. An increasing number of new houses are passive, meaning that they are so well isolated that they do not require a heating system at all, even when it's freezing outside. So it's possible (and not uncommon) to live almost off the grid for electricity and (gas or petrol) heating.

Maciamo
01-12-17, 20:20
Solar panels installed on any building makes it seem as if it's being converted into a top secret laboratory devoted to communicating with space aliens.

There are solar panels that look like roof tiles nowadays. You may not be able to tell they are PV panels at all!

firetown
01-12-17, 20:53
Whenever I feel out of balance it expresses itself in different ways. Unreasonable spending being one. Wanting something I would otherwise not feel the need to get. But that is to some extent. Usually I snap out of it becoming angry over realizing that I was being wasteful. Not based on spending something that I benefited from, but money gone out of the window for next to nothing.

LeBrok
02-12-17, 02:51
Solar panels are relatively common here. In my street almost half of the houses have them, but it's a particularly eco-conscious neighbourhood. Here a family home consumes about 4000 kWh of electricity per year, which costs about 1200€. A photovoltaic installation like the one proposed by IKEA covers all that electricity and can therefore be paid back in 4 or 5 years. After that it's all profit. So it is pretty interesting. I don't understand why everyone doesn't have PV panels under such circumstances.

The Belgian government has been encouraging people to improve their house insulation for many years with heavy subsidies (up to 50% of the bill). As a result many houses are very well insulated. But heating is still the biggest expense for most households. An increasing number of new houses are passive, meaning that they are so well isolated that they do not require a heating system at all, even when it's freezing outside. So it's possible (and not uncommon) to live almost off the grid for electricity and (gas or petrol) heating.
Yes, electricity is expensive in Europe. My home in Canada uses 8,000 kWh per year and I pay 900 CAD, which is 600 Euro for it. No way I can substitute this for solar panel in economic manner, not even close.
I would need to install 6,000 kWh (if not more, because of very low sun in winter here) solar system to run my house for something like 15k Euro. Mostly up front expense. And hope I can get enough juice from them to last 20 years to break even. To my knowledge, solar panels lose 2% efficiency a year. After 10 years they give about 80% of max power, after 20 years about 65%.
Now considering that they work only during a day, not much at night or winter, I will need to compensate the deficit from the grid. Half of the grid price are delivery fees, even if I don't use electricity, I'm charged. So even with solar panels on the roof, I would pay half of normal electricity cost.
To get off the grid permanently it would require investment and installation of huge batteries in my house, for additional 20k of dollars at least, with minor renovation to accommodate them.
Sure, I could make some money on selling electricity to the grid, to compensate some expenses, but it would require additional components and installation cost.
Plus, in case of changing roof shingles, that will happen during 20 years of panels on the roof, there is additional cost of disassembling and reassembling panels during shingles installation or other roof repairs, of at least 2k dollars.
Plus, there is cost of solar panel maintenance, at least someone going on the roof to wash them once a year. Dirty panels will produce 10-20% less energy. In northern climate there is also snow problem during long winter.
Plus, repair cost if they break down. I'm not sure though, how reliable they are these days.

I wonder if Europe have solar panel recycling program already included in the price. We don't want millions of them finished under the ground. There might be additional cost recycling them in the future.

10-20 years will pass of improving efficiency, technology and prices, till they will make good sense in Canada.

Maciamo
07-12-17, 11:39
Yes, electricity is expensive in Europe. My home in Canada uses 8,000 kWh per year and I pay 900 CAD, which is 600 Euro for it. No way I can substitute this for solar panel in economic manner, not even close.

That makes electricity 4 times cheaper in Canada than in Belgium. That's odd because 52% of the electricity in Belgium comes from nuclear power, which is the cheapest to produce. In Canada it's only 15%. Only France have a considerably higher share of nuclear electricity (72%). I wonder how electricity can be so cheap in Canada? Or is it Belgian consumers who are being cheated by paying many times more what they should? Yet the market has been liberalised and there are now over 20 electricity companies and many websites to compare prices between providers.

What's more, PV panels should be more efficient in Canada than in Belgium for two reasons:

1) Most Canadian cities are inland and enjoy a lot of sunshine compared to cloudy Belgium.

2) Most of the population of Canada lives at relatively southern latitudes. Belgium lies at 50° North, against 43° North for Toronto, 45° for Montreal and Ottawa, 46° for Québec City, 49° for Vancouver and 49.5° for Winnipeg. Only Calgary (51°) and Edmonton (53°C) are slightly more northern than Belgium among major cities.

For example, Brussels only has 1500 hours of sunshine per year, as opposed to 1900 hours for Québec City, and 1950 hours for Vancouver, 2050 hours for Toronto and Montreal, and about 2400 hours for northerly Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

So solar production is between 30% and 60% more efficient in Canada than in Belgium. Temperatures don't matter for PV panels. They will produce the same amount of electricity whether its +20°C or -20°C outside for the same amount of sunlight.




I would need to install 6,000 kWh (if not more, because of very low sun in winter here) solar system to run my house for something like 15k Euro. Mostly up front expense. And hope I can get enough juice from them to last 20 years to break even. To my knowledge, solar panels lose 2% efficiency a year. After 10 years they give about 80% of max power, after 20 years about 65%.
Now considering that they work only during a day, not much at night or winter, I will need to compensate the deficit from the grid. Half of the grid price are delivery fees, even if I don't use electricity, I'm charged. So even with solar panels on the roof, I would pay half of normal electricity cost.
To get off the grid permanently it would require investment and installation of huge batteries in my house, for additional 20k of dollars at least, with minor renovation to accommodate them.
Sure, I could make some money on selling electricity to the grid, to compensate some expenses, but it would require additional components and installation cost.
Plus, in case of changing roof shingles, that will happen during 20 years of panels on the roof, there is additional cost of disassembling and reassembling panels during shingles installation or other roof repairs, of at least 2k dollars.
Plus, there is cost of solar panel maintenance, at least someone going on the roof to wash them once a year. Dirty panels will produce 10-20% less energy. In northern climate there is also snow problem during long winter.
Plus, repair cost if they break down. I'm not sure though, how reliable they are these days.


Good solar companies here have the maintenance and cleaning included in the contract. They also guarantee the production announced in their offer, and will pay the difference if the yield is not reached. Until a few years ago there were government subsidies to install PV panels and they paid about half of the total cost, so it was a real bargain. They stopped because the government considers that the panels pay for themselves quickly enough. I imagine that in the USA and southern Europe, which all have far more sunlight than Belgium (even Canada does), if electricity prices are as high as in Belgium PV panels are very profitable.

bicicleur
07-12-17, 12:51
Belgian customers pay a very high bill for electricity distribution. That is a monopoly in the hands of companies owned by the local authorities and it is the playgarden of local politicians who give themselves a nice extra income as adviseres and administrators of these companies. You could say that electrity in Belgium is expensive because of corruption.
Distrubution costs are more than half of the total electricity bill, depending on which paart of Belgium the consumer lives.
A second cause is the subsidies for solar and wind energy that are far to high because of mismanagement by the former federal government who wanted to give themselves a green reputation. These subsidies are funded by extra taxes on electrity.
I know some lobbyists and politicians blame nuclear power for the high costs, but in fact it is the other way around, nuclear power is taxed very high in order to pay the subsidies for green energy. In principle that is fine for me as long as it is within reason and transparent.

Maciamo
08-12-17, 19:13
Electricity is expensive in Belgium, but it's far from being the most expensive in Europe. After searching for some data (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_pricing) I found that even Spain and Portugal have higher prices - which answers my earlier question about the profitability of PV panels in these countries.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a9/Electricity-prices-europe.jpg


What's amazing is that Norway, the richest Western country and one of the most expensive to live in, has cheaper electricity prices than anywhere else in Western Europe except France. But whereas France benefits from cheap nuclear power, 99% of Norway's electricity is green and renewable (most hydropower). Denmark and Sweden have lower costs of life, and less renewable electricity (56% and 60%), but higher electricity prices nonetheless. I doubt that corruption is to blame. Scandinavian countries are the least corrupted countries on Earth. Cultural differences are also minor between them. So how does Norway keep prices so low? State subsidies?

The Wikipedia page in link above says that electricity costs 14 US cents/kWh in Canada, against 29 in Belgium. In the USA it's only 8 to 17 US cents/kWh, like in the eastern half of Europe! That surely can't be state subsidies or corporate generosity in a country like the States! How do they do it?