The Development Ministry announced yesterday that the Public Power Company (PPC) will increase electricity rates for households by up to 6.5 percent as of next month while fixed charges will soar by as much as 56 percent. The ministry, which gave the green light to the new energy charges, said the hike will help support the energy company’s future growth prospects. «With the new prices, the growth potential of PPC is being supported. The new prices partly cover a large increase in operating costs that have come from external factors (fuel costs, higher cost to import energy),» the ministry said. With a market value of 4.3 billion euros, PPC is controlled by the government and is one of the biggest companies in the country. The news is likely to please investors but will hit consumer pockets hard as the increase is well above inflation levels that are currently around 3.5-3.7 percent. It has also triggered fears that more state-controlled firms will seek similar price hikes, placing further pressure on consumer prices. The energy hikes follow a government announcement on Thursday that taxes on cigarettes and mobile phone bill subscriptions will rise by as much as 317 percent. Energy costs for commercial premises will rise by an average of 3.5 percent while their fixed charges will shoot up by up to 75 percent. PPC will also introduce incentives for consumers to use less electricity. Households that drop average annual electricity usage by four percent or more will qualify for a five percent discount on their total bill, according to the ministry.