ECONOMY

Energy woes just keep growing

Energy woes just keep growing

The prolonged energy crisis is pushing electricity consumers and suppliers to their limits.

For a seventh consecutive month, and despite state subsidies, consumers are faced with huge electricity and natural gas bills, while power and gas retailers are being forced to cover their increased needs for cash by opening new credit lines. Some of these companies have even resorted to other practices to enhance their liquidity, such as delaying payments to grid operators or withholding the council tax that is charged through power bills.

Suppliers have seen their finances plunge deep into the red since late last year, with December seeing the first delays in payment by consumers shocked by the impact of price hikes. An increasing number of consumers have since been putting off paying their bills, while many are also entering settlement arrangements, further exacerbating providers’ liquidity issues.

Worries are mounting about a new wave of unpaid bills, which would have a domino effect on the market as there is no sign of the wave of global rate hikes abating before spring. The Energy Ministry is working various on scenarios if rates remain at high levels once they stop rising, and is making plans for extending bill subsidies to the entire year, which would require some 2 billion euros.

These problems have also resulted in a standoff between the ministry and supply companies, among other market grievances. Minister Kostas Skrekas is said to have accused certain power providers of imposing excessive adjustment charges on their customers, thereby offsetting a significant part of the state subsidy. Sources say he has asked the Regulatory Authority for Energy to deliver a full list, by Monday, of every company’s adjustment charges on their clients per month since September.

Another front that has opened is that between suppliers and the Central Association of Greek Municipalities (KEDE), as five or six companies in the industry have been withholding the council tax they collect from their customers instead of forwarding it to municipalities, the KEDE board meeting heard last week. The issue has been referred to Skrekas, demanding an immediate intervention.