ENERGY

Vicious cycle of power debts

Vicious cycle of power debts

Unpaid debts in the electricity market have multiple effects, within itself and well beyond it, with the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) striving to contain the damage that the energy hikes have inflicted on the operation of the entire power industry and the economy in general.

For example, power suppliers are not forwarding the cash received through electricity bills that takes the form of council tax to the municipal authorities. That means local authorities are finding it hard to pay for street lighting and water supply. Furthermore, the suppliers are also not meeting their obligations to electrical energy producers.

A huge number of more than 150,000 consumers who have entered the beneficial status of state support after having their power cut off currently pay off their dues whenever they feel like it, and have thereby amassed a total amount of dues that exceeds 50 million euros. Power suppliers are unable to collect the dues from those customers as they are unable to trace a large number of them to send them their bill: They have no postal addresses nor any tax registration data at their disposal, because the grid operator (DEDDIE) does not possess such information – though it should – and cannot forward it to suppliers.

RAE is trying to put the industry back in order, imposing fines (in the case of DEDDIE) or issuing final decisions, as in the case of the three natural gas supply companies – although the latter refuse to comply since they simply find the money they would have to return is too much for an industry struggling to meet the challenge of the power rate hikes.

The issue of power retailers’ debts to municipal authorities was put to Finance Minister Christos Staikouras on Monday and to Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas on Tuesday, with the head of the association of municipal authorities (KEDE), Dimitris Papastergiou, asking for the withdrawal of operating licenses from electricity suppliers which fail to pay the cash due for the council tax within two months.