The Armenian authorities are exploring the possibility of reducing the prices of electricity and natural gas for some consumers, Prime Minister Karen Karapetian reiterated on Wednesday.
Karapetian issued corresponding orders to the Armenian ministries of energy and labor as well as state utility regulators when he held his first cabinet meeting in Yerevan on September 15. He has since appointed the first six members of his cabinet, including the new Energy and Natural Resources Minister Ashot Manukian.
Karapetian, who himself was appointed prime minister a week ago, insisted on Wednesday that the new government is serious about trying to make electricity and gas cheaper for low-income Armenians as well as some businesses.
“We have proposed to change the methodology of energy pricing and to separate socially vulnerable and non-vulnerable consumers,” he told reporters. He said lower tariffs may also apply to commercial greenhouses, food-processing firms and other entities heavily dependent on gas supplies.
Armenia buys the bulk of its gas from Gazprom, and it remains to be seen whether the Russian energy giant will agree to a price cut. It lowered the wholesale gas price for Armenia by 9 percent as recently as in April.
Karapetian ran the country’s Gazprom-controlled gas distribution network from 2001-2010. He managed Gazprom subsidiaries in Russia after unexpectedly resigning as Yerevan mayor in 2011.
On August 1, the government of Karapetian’s predecessor Hovik Abrahamian stopped subsidizing the domestic retail prices of electricity. The measure came just over one year after utility regulators raised those prices and triggered dramatic street protests in Yerevan.
The subsidy, introduced after the June 2015 protests, kept the tariff unchanged for the vast majority of Armenian households until August 2016. The government currently compensates only Armenians living below the official poverty line for the price rise.