Ex Bulgarian Energy Minister: Liberalization Will Reduce Opacity, Not Power Bills
Asked to comment on the growing discontent of Bulgarians over high power bills, former Economy and Energy Minister Traycho Traykov has reminded that the country has low electricity tariffs compared to the EU average.
In a Friday interview for mediapool.bg, Traykov admits that power distributors should have warned their subscribers in advance about the longer accounting period in December.
He claims, however, that the series of protests staged for several days in a row in a number of Bulgarian cities were fed by anger deliberately directed at power distributors.
"The truth is, however, that household electricity prices, all fees and surcharges included, are several times lower than the EU average, it is not a matter of a certain percentage. The share of power distributors in the tariff is also among the lowest in Europe, at around 16-17%, compared to over 25% in most countries, the same as it was in Bulgaria prior to the privatization," Traykov notes, adding that Bulgarians are now paying less than they would have had to if the power distributors had remained under state control and the expenses had stayed the same.
"Despite that, I believe that all institutions involved in the sphere must be subject to systematic control and public accountability," he states.
Bulgaria's former Economy and Energy Minister emphasizes that there must be transparency not only about the 17% share of power distributors but also the remaining 83% share of power plants, national power grid operator NEK, the Electricity System Operator (ESO), and the state coffers.
He goes on to say that it is of utmost importance to ensure a transparent and accountable State Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (DKEVR).
Asked whether a liberalization of the energy market is the cure-all for the problems in the sector, he says that a full liberalization in Bulgaria would have three short-term effects, including an increase in household electricity prices, overnight bankruptcy of the National Electric Company (NEK), and a huge spike in profits of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant and the Maritsa Iztok 2 Thermal Power Plant.
"Liberalization is a cure for doubts that you are being lied to. It is also a cure for imbalances and distortions which have piled up through the years," he explains.
He suggests that energy efficiency is the trivial, yet sure-fire solution to the problem.
"For households this means energy retrofits, energy-efficient appliances and electronic systems for their management. For the business sector it means the above-mentioned things plus energy-efficient equipment. For the energy grid as a whole it means investments in smart grids to reduce technical losses," Traykov argues.
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