Teething troubles as Bulgaria bids to contain rising electricity prices

Bulgarian Parliament’s decision to vote a moratorium on electricity and other utility prices drew a sharp rebuke from the Prime Minister’s office on December 15, as the country’s new ruling coalition prepares to tackle the issue of rising electricity bills.

The motion in the National Assembly, tabled by the largest opposition group GERB-UDF, would set electricity, heating and water prices starting January 1 2022 at the levels they were on January 1 2021.

The motion did not set an end date for the moratorium and it was not immediately clear to what extent it was legally binding. It passed with 186 votes in favour, two against and two MPs abstaining.

Separately, the four groups in the government coalition backed the proposal to set up an ad hoc committee to discuss possible measures to counter the rise in electricity prices for household and industrial consumers.

The proposal passed with 163 votes in favour, 49 opposed from GERB-UDF and seven abstentions.

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s chief of staff Lena Borislavova said that the ad hoc committee would have to review the motion voted by Parliament to clarify the text “that had not been discussed at expert level.”

“The coalition is behind the idea that such measures, which could lead to greater chaos in society, should not be imposed in such an incompetent fashion,” Borislavova said.

The ad hoc committee would have to review the moratorium and draft a report on whether to vote an amended motion on December 16, she said.

The committee would focus on discussing two possible avenues for tackling the crisis – one proposal is to suspend the utilities regulator’s powers to set electricity prices for a period of three months starting January 1 2022, or to draft amendments to the Energy Act for greater oversight and transparency of the regulator, without curtailing its independence, Borislavova said.

In Parliament, several MPs from the government coalition also accused the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC) of pursuing a political agenda with a proposal to raise electricity prices by 11.5 per cent and central heating prices by an average of 12.8 per cent starting January 1 2022.

EWRC was scheduled to hold a public consultation on the proposal on December 15 but cancelled its sitting after the National Assembly voted the moratorium motion.

(Photo: John Mason/freeimages.com)

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