French families struggle with soaring energy bills

Jacques Kadio, like many in France, is doing all he could to cope with the spiraling cost of electricity.

His family is now facing monthly power bills nearly three times higher than before the global health crisis, according to a social worker who helps him with his paperwork.

The father of five has already cut his grocery bill, refuels his car less and turns the heating off when his children are at school, but the electricity bill is squeezing his household budget to the point of going broke.

"I don't know how to deal with this situation because we can no longer live. All our earnings have to be spent on electricity, the utilities, the rent, the daily costs of living, fuel - we have all that at the same time. That would be hard, not just a bit, but too hard."

This is his wife Helene:

"What can we cut down? We can cut down on food, we can cut down a bit, deprive ourselves a bit on it. But with energy, we can't do that. The bills come in every day, we don't know what to do, we need energy to live, we need lights, we need all that."

Wholesale energy prices in France have surged partly due to low gas stocks and a jump in post-lockdown demand.

The French government last Thursday announced that lower-income households would receive 100 euros - that's $116 - to help mitigate rising costs after extending an energy grant to more households.

But a social worker at the firm that helps the Kadios says the government grant only covers a fraction of the costs.

According to a survey from the country's national energy mediator, one in four French people said they are struggling this year to pay their gas or electricity bills, up from less than a fifth in 2020.

The Kadios' social worker said the family's situation was exacerbated by factors such as poor insulation at home and spending more time indoors due to lockdowns, remote working and job losses.

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