ECONOMY

Unpaid power bills a growing problem

Money owed to Greece’s Public Power Corporation (PPC) in the form of unpaid electricity bills stands at an estimated 700 million euros. This amount represents more than 10 percent of the company’s total turnover and is mainly the result of the economic crisis which is hitting small and medium-sized businesses hard. Out of the 700 million euros, 100 million comprises the debts of mostly state enterprises which have been pending for more than a year. The remaining 600 million has been piling up over the last 10 months. A sizable chunk of this, between 150-200 million euros, is owed by two of the country’s energy-hungry companies: Aluminium of Greece and nickel producer Larco. Small and medium-sized businesses which have shut up shop or are no longer in the position to pay their power bills owe a total 400-450 million euros to PPC. The financial situation is actually worse than these figures suggest, according to PPC sources, who point out that many struggling customers are seeking more favorable repayment terms for money owed to the company. So far there have not been any problems among households, sources said, although it was observed that there had been an increase in overdue bills. Another side effect of the crisis is that power consumption is dropping, eating into PPC’s revenues which have already been hurt by customers turning to its competitors. In 2010, PPC is estimated to have lost 300 million euros in income from the 60,000 clients that have switched suppliers since the start of the year. When added to the 700 million euros from debts owed, the amount exceeds the 1-billion-euro mark. Sources also point out that there has been an increase in incidents of electricity theft. A large number of power meters located on premises belonging to PPC customers have been stolen, particularly in the Piraeus area. However, several incidents of missing power meters are the result of PPC cutting off supply due to overdue bills.