Gas and heating prices to rise

DESPITE vows from Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek to cap and even reduce energy prices in Slovakia, the independent state regulator that sets the prices is ready to authorize rises in heating and natural gas rates.

About 50 gas-powered heating plants have asked the Bureau for the Regulation of Network Industries (ÚRSO) to approve new rises as of October 1. The bureau has said it expects prices to increase by five percent to Sk650 per gigajoule, compared to Sk420 in 2001 and Sk140 in 1997.

The bureau is also to decide by September 12 whether to permit a requested rise of 15 percent in the price of natural gas. According to the Sme daily, the bureau is likely to agree to a rise, but by a smaller amount.

The SPP gas utility last raised prices in January, by five percent, following a 20 percent hike in October 2005.

According to SPP spokesperson Dana Kršáková, the bureau approved the earlier rises on the assumption that the average price of oil, which affects the price of gas, would range from $53-$54 per barrel in 2006. In fact, oil prices climbed over $70 dollars, forcing the utility to sell to households below cost, Kršáková said.

The Economy Ministry, which regards energy prices as too high and has demanded they be reduced by five percent, did not react to the information on the planned price hikes.

“We are analyzing the situation on the energy market, the related legislation and energy prices, and we will react only when it is complete,” said ministry spokesman Branislav Zvara.

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