Home electricity bills rise 8 percent

Household electricity bills will increase by up to 8 percent today after the government gave the green light yesterday for a two-part tariff hike with the second installment expected in July. The Development Ministry said the state-controlled Public Power Corporation (PPC) will up tariffs for low- and mid-voltage users by as much as 8 percent with effect from today. Heavy users, such as industry, will pay up to 10 percent more. «The decision subjects financially weak consumers to zero increases while protecting the rest from excessive hikes,» said Development Minister Christos Folias. «It is the first major step to deregulate the energy market, set the stage for healthy competition and secure electricity supplies.» The government also approved a 7 percent hike as of July. And starting in 2009, prices will be automatically adjusted to account for the international price of fuels such as oil and gas, the ministry added. PPC had requested much higher increases, ranging from 10 to 30 percent, but the government has kept electricity prices below the European Union average to avoid unpopularity with voters. PPC got its first above-inflation price increase in four years in 2006 while oil prices tripled over the same period. PPC, whose shares are traded on the Athens bourse, has seen profits drop sharply due to rising fuel costs.