The alarming steady rise of unpaid overdue electricity bills owed by consumers to the main power utility PPC, now totaling 2.2 billion euros, has placed both the corporation and government in difficult positions.
If the consumer arrears figure, nearly double the utility’s bourse value, does not start falling, then PPC will be forced to either become more relentless with its supply cut policy or increase tariffs. Both would have a negative political impact on the government as it battles to manage the bailout agreement’s repercussions on ordinary citizens.
Officials at PPC and the energy ministry are hoping that the utility’s intensified power-cut warnings of late will prompt consumers with arrears to start making payments, which could stop the utility’s consumer arrears figure from rising further. It has increased at a rate of about 40 million euros per month, or two percent, over the past five months. The data for next month will be crucial.
Otherwise, the already challenging situation, which threatens to destabilize the entire energy sector, will become even more severe.
Both the energy ministry and PPC have swept aside reports contending power-cut orders may reach 700,000 in a year. To appease the widening sense of unease, energy minister Panos Skourletis declared the power cut-off point level for consumers with arrears would be increased.
Seeking to reinstate financial order at PPC while also showing social sensitivity, the balancing act sought by Skourletis, is easier said than done.
Some 600,000 households have already qualified for reduced rates offered to underprivileged consumer groups. The discount is covered by Public Service Compensation (YKO) surcharges on electricity bills.