The Malta Independent 20 October 2018, Saturday

PM maintains electricity bills have not increased, says regulators are reviewing complaints

Helena Grech Tuesday, 15 May 2018, 17:30 Last update: about 6 months ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat repeatedly maintained that electricity bills in Malta have not increased, but have decreased by 25 per cent, calling it "an irrefutable fact".

He was responding to journalists' questions at a press event on Tuesday, where he was asked why the authorities were reluctant to acknowledge complaints raised by people about rising electricity bills because of the way they are being billed.

Muscat stressed that the complaints by some people have been raised with the relevant authorities, and that those complaints are currently being "reviewed".

ADVERTISEMENT

The issue was initially given media coverage by The Malta Independent after economist Marie Briguglio sounded the alarm on the use of quota rationing by ARMS, which is resulting in higher bills for households that consume their electricity in spikes and dips.

The system was implemented by former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi's PN government and has remained unchanged since then. What has changed is that more and more households are being billed every two months based on actual consumption than ever before.

More frequent bills equates to higher bills for many household, as this newsroom has seen firsthand upon reviewing consumers' bills.

The driving principle behind the billing system is the more you consume, the more you pay - a fair system. There are five different electricity rates, with the cheapest of10c5 being charged for 2,000 units of electricity consumed, 12c9 for 4,000 units, 16c for another 4,000 units, 35c for 10,000 units consumed and 64c for anything consumed beyond that.

Due to the different band rates, ARMS is calculating the different tariffs by dividing each band by 365 days and then multiplying for the number of days in a particular billing period. Since an effort is being made to charge people every two months, the majority of bills are covering an average of 60 days. A total of 60 days roughly provides a household with 333 units at the cheapest rates, 650 units at 12c9 and another 650 units at 16c.

People are complaining that in periods of high consumption such as January and February, when many households use air conditioners to heat their homes, they are jumping up to the more expensive rates of 12c9, 16c and 35c when they had not yet consumed their allowance of 2,000 units at 10c5.

Electricity rates are an extremely controversial issue in Malta, due to the prohibitively high electricity rates imposed on the public by the last PN government in power. One of the main rallying cries of the Labour Party right before it was elected into power in 2013 that it would reduce the rates. Just one year after being elected it had made good on its promise.

Government supporters accuse those who raised this issue of being partisan for failing to speak up when the PN was in power and the public was paying extremely high rates for electricity. They say that when comparing their bills pre Joseph Muscat's government and after, they are paying far less these days.

This newsroom does not dispute this, however when comparisons have been made by people from 2014 onwards, who within that timeframe use to be billed less frequently and are now being billed every two months, they observed a notable increase in their bills.

Those people who consume electricity smoothly without much variation throughout the year would not be impacted by this quota rationing system.

  • don't miss