Electricity billing review in final stages, minister says

It remains unclear whether the review currently underway will bring changes to the two-monthly billing system that was at the heart of much controversy earlier this year

Electricity billing system review in its final stages
Electricity billing system review in its final stages

Bigger incentives are on the way for people who are careful with electricity consumption as government targets changes to the eco-reduction mechanism, MaltaToday has learnt.

But it remains unclear whether the review currently underway will bring changes to the two-monthly billing system that was at the heart of much controversy earlier this year.

Energy Minister Joe Mizzi said the review process he promised before Parliament went into summer recess was at an “advanced stage” and in a couple of months’ time he would present Cabinet with a proposal.

“The tariff mechanism created back in time with the polluter pays principle in mind through the different bands and the introduction of an eco-reduction will be retained in principle but we want to create greater incentives for people to consume less,” Mizzi said.

Earlier this year, the government received flak over the billing system through which customers were receiving actual bills every two months.

READ ALSO: How energy consumption near tariff band is costing households more

Economist Marie Briguglio had shown how the annual allocation of free units per household set at law, was being eroded when the units were broken down every two months. Some families ended up paying more for electricity as a result of the manner by which bills were being issued.

The issue was also taken up by the Nationalist Party that had also requested a parliamentary discussion on the matter.

But Mizzi insisted the existing tariff bands had been introduced far back to discourage people from wasting electricity and the investment made over the years was intended to sustain a two-monthly billing system

“I asked to see how the whole system works and the billing process is legally correct, but I also want to see what is fair. I have to incentivise those people who are being cautious with their consumption,” Mizzi said, adding the focus would instead be on the eco-reduction.

According to ARMS, the utility billing company, a single-member household currently benefits from a 25% eco-reduction on its electricity bill if consumption is less than 2,000 units during the whole year.

The same reduction applies for residences with more than one person, and where consumption is less than 1,750 units per person.

A reduction of 25% per person will apply on the first 1,000 units and a further 15% per person will apply on the remaining 750 units.

Asked whether some consumers will be given a refund in the wake of proven claims that they were overcharged, Mizzi was non-committal.

“I want to wait for all the report, including the results of running actual bills on computer models using different systems,” Mizzi said.

The Opposition had insisted that consumers were being cheated by the two-monthly bills and called for refunds.

READ ALSO: Nationalist Party asks regulator to investigate ARMS billing system

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