Yuliana Ivanova, an engineer by training, is being appointed as the new head of the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission, it emerged from a Cabinet meeting on February 13 2013, a post that will propel her into the midst of Bulgaria’s drama over high electricity bills.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has ordered Ivanova to request the National Audit Office and the Financial Supervision Commission to investigate the activities of the commission and to refer any irregularities found to prosecutors.
Ivanova’s predecessor was fired a fortnight ago because of the regulator’s failure to adopt measures related to energy liberalisation. In the interim, nationwide protests started against high electricity bills, with protesters demanding the expulsion of the foreign companies that own Bulgaria’s three power distribution companies and the re-nationalisation of these companies.
Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Delyan Dobrev, speaking in Parliament on February 13 after the opposition tabled a request for him to address the issue of the high electricity bills, repeated his earlier call for a change in the system used to decide electricity prices.
He said that the problem of how prices were determined was not new but dated back 10 years.
Dobrev told Parliament that Prime Minister Boiko Borissov had in 2012 backed the idea of the chief of the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission being elected by the National Assembly but instead Parliament had decided to establish a committee to oversee the regulator.
Meanwhile, in addition to the people who organised through social networks the electricity price protests and the opposition political parties which in parallel have been attacking the government on energy sector issues, the private sector also is complaining, according to a February 13 2013 report by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television.
Mariana Kukusheva, head of the Federation of Bakers, said that the electricity bills of industrial users were about 60 per cent higher in December 2012. Some of the cases were dramatic, with a small bakery in Plovdiv saying that its bill that month was 2.5 times higher than before.
She said that business had proposals to resolve the situation, including setting up a body to do an independent audit of the software of electricity distribution companies.