Prime Minister Robert Fico reiterated that people should not pay increased invoices for electricity and should wait for new ones. On Wednesday, January 25, the Office for the Regulation of Network Industries (ÚRSO) will adopt a new regulation based on which prices should return to the levels they were at in 2016. In the meantime the opposition doubts the independence of the regulatory authority and is calling for the removal of its head, Jozef Holjenčík.
The new electricity prices should come into effect retrospectively from January 1, 2017.
“The Government welcomes the decision of ÚRSO to change its original decisions [concerning energy prices for 2017],” said Fico on January 23 as cited by the TASR newswire. “After a series of meetings with the regulatory authority chairman [Jozef Holjenčík] I can confirm that a new pricing procedure has been initiated.”
Invoices for advance payments for electricity, which were sent to households and other consumers in January of this year, are invalid, and people can tear them up, added Fico.
ÚRSO will issue a new price directive concerning gas on January 25 as well.
“As for water, ÚRSO has already sent water companies a methodological guide so that the implementation of decisions can be approached properly,” said Fico.
Significant hikes in advance payments for electricity that were required not only from households but also from municipalities and schools in January have triggered a wave of criticism recently. The increased prices affected in particular consumers served by the electricity distributor Stredoslovenská Energetika operating in central Slovakia.
“During the negotiations with representatives of Stredoslovenská Energetika and the regulatory authority we proposed that they should restore prices to the levels seen last year,” said Fico, adding that otherwise the government would amend relevant laws and enter the regulatory environment.
Opposition calls for dismissal of Holjenčík
In the meantime Jana Kissová and Karol Galek, both MPs for the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party and Igor Matovič and Veronika Remišová from OĽaNO-NOVA indicated that President Andrej Kiska should dismiss Holjenčík from his post of the chairman of ÚRSO.
“We have delivered to the President’s Office a motion to examine the independence of the regulatory authority, since we have a serious suspicion that this office is not independent and that it’s not acting in an independent manner as required by the law,” said Kissová.
The law stipulates that the regulatory authority must be independent and cannot listen to, regard or make decisions based on the recommendations and decisions by third parties, stated Kissová.
Kissová also pointed to the fact that PM Fico (Smer) “gave a direct order to the regulatory authority” obliging ÚRSO chairman Holjenčík to revise its price decisions concerning energies for 2017.
“We deem this to be an actual reason for sacking the regulatory authority’s chairman,” said Kissová.
Matovič added that Holjenčík should have left the ÚRSO post a long time ago.
“A man like this definitely should not be the regulatory authority’s chief,” said Matovič. “If he acted independently, there is no way he would have accepted a power distributor’s proposal to increase prices by 700 percent,” said Matovič.
23. Jan 2017 at 21:59 | Compiled by Spectator staff