RAE to restrict movement of power consumers with arrears

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, appears determined to revise the country’s electricity supply codes and regulations in order to make more difficult the ability of consumers with power bill arrears to switch from one supplier to another.

According to energypress sources, these revisions will be made within the next few days, or definitely before December 2, when the tenures of four officials serving on the seven-member RAE board are set to expire. The authority will not be able to operate and implement decisions until the outgoing board members are replaced, a process expected to take until late January, at best.

PPC, the main power utility, is owed 2.2 billion euros, roughly half its bourse value, in overdue electricity bills.

Despite reaction from independent electricity suppliers, vying for greater retail market shares in Greece now that lender bailout terms are obligating PPC to reduce its virtually monopolistic dominance to a share of no more than 50 percent by 2020, RAE officials believe it is necessary to implement protective measures that will obstruct free movement by consumers from one supplier to another.

A considerable number of consumers behind on their electricity bill payments are believed to be exploiting current regulations and switching suppliers despite owing amounts to previous suppliers, ultimately avoiding power cuts when not being punctual with payments.

The strictest of three proposals forwarded during public consultation procedures for the RAE code revisions, which would prevent consumers with electricity bill arrears from transferring to new suppliers, has been rejected. The likeliest solution is expected to offer consumers with unpaid overdue power bills the right to switch suppliers as long as they have agreed to payback programs, through installments, with current suppliers. The current suppliers would maintain the right to order power cuts if respective debtors do not service their payback programs as agreed to. Also, consumers whose power supply has already been cut will not be able to transfer.

A consensus on the matter has not been reached by the RAE board. Certain board members believe consumers should be free to move as part of the effort to liberalize Greece’s electricity market. PPC had inexplicably tolerated arrears gradually accumulated by consumers for years, these officials are pointing out.

Independent electricity suppliers, who have already launched campaigns for greater retail market shares, have reacted against RAE’s intention to revise regulations and restrict the ability of consumers to move from one supplier to another.