The head of Bulgaria’s utilities regulator has rejected renewed calls from industrial consumers demanding to postpone electricity price hikes until the end of the year.
Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC) chairperson Ivan Ivanov told Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) on July 28 that the legal framework ruled out further delays, re-iterating the regulator’s intention to go ahead with the planned price increase, which would go into effect on August 1.
“There is no legal possibility [for another delay], because the law stipulates that the regulatory period ending on June 30 can be extended by one month, which means July 31,” Ivanov was quoted as saying.
He said that the regulator will meet on July 31 to decide on the new electricity prices and would revise the EWRC’s existing proposal, which was set to go into effect on July 1. That hike was postponed because large-scale industrial consumers protested against the proposal – in particular, the sharp hike in the “social responsibility” fee introduced in 2013 to replace renewable energy and power grid loss surcharges.
The main goal of the regulator’s new board, appointed earlier this year, is to stem the losses suffered by state electric utility NEK, which has accumulated billions in debt over the past years because of bad investment decisions and the requirement to buy electricity produced from renewable energy sources at preferential prices.
The regulator decided to postpone the increase to give other state institutions the necessary time to adopt measures that would reduce the impact of the price hike. Last week, Parliament passed amendments to the Energy Act envisioning the creation of a new “electricity system security” fund to cover NEK’s deficits, requiring all electricity producers and importers to pay five per cent of their revenues into the fund on a monthly basis.
Ivanov has said previously that even with the recent amendments, there would still be an increase in the “social responsibility” fee, albeit a smaller one than what the regulator had envisioned initially. Industrial consumers, however, remained opposed to the price hike and have scheduled a new walkout protest for July 29 – having carried out similar industrial action in late June.