Environment Commissioner Calls for Help for Electricity Consumers
Environment Commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou has called for new measures to help electricity consumers, saying they've been left high and dry without help or guidance and face difficulties paying high energy bills.
Consumers should be constantly updated about the energy consumption levels of household appliances, and informed about storage heaters and how they work to avoid staggering bills during the winter season. A campaign to emphasise efficient use of electricity is lacking, said Theopemptou.
Since grants to help households buy roof insulation do not apply anymore, the Electricity Authority of Cyprus should rethink the way they charge for energy. Charges on the first 500 kw/h should be reduced to lower the burden on poor families, and the prices for households that use over 1000 kw/h should be raised so that the EAC does not have a financial problem, said Theopemptou. He added that the EAC sends bills every two months and by then it is too late for households to try and save on consumption.
The introduction of smart meters with immediate notification of consumption even via the Internet would be a great help to consumers, said the environment commissioner.
Installation costs could be allocated to accounts within a year, he said. Smart meters would help consumers to distribute their energy consumption throughout 24 hours to reduce expenses, since peak hours are daytime, and there are lower tariffs at night.
Lawmakers and the state should plan for these measures before new private electricity suppliers hit the market, said Theopemptou.
Cypriot consumers pay the highest electricity consumption charges in the EU, according to Eurostat's latest figures.
Extra charges over and above the electricity consumption include 17 percent VAT, 2 percent for renewable energy, 2 percent for emissions fines, and a 7 percent temporary surcharge to cover extra costs incurred after the explosion next to the Vassiliko power plant. Each electricity bill includes an estimated 70 percent for actual electricity consumption and 30 percent in extra charges and taxes.
Loud protests against electricity bills in the hundreds of euros have come from various citizens groups and been covered by media such as the UK's Telegraph, which carried an article about the electricity bill prices encountered by UK expatriates and local citizens. Greek-language media such as Sigma TV, Mega Channel and RIK have also covered the situation extensively, recording cases of two-person households receiving bills of 1,200 euros, and of children studying at night by candlelight because their parents are too afraid of the electricity bills.
The protests have been heard as high up as Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which are studying lowering VAT from 17 percent to 8 percent to help relieve consumers. The EAC has also taken some measures by allowing consumers to pay their bills in more than one payment over the short term. The fundamental problem of high electricity costs has not been solved, however.
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