Armenia’s four leading political parties challenging President Serzh Sarkisian demanded on Wednesday that regulatory authorities abandon plans to increase the price of electricity for households by 10 percent.
The Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) announced those plans early this month. Its chairman, Robert Nazarian, said afterwards that a higher tariff is indispensable for ending significant losses incurred by the Armenia electricity distribution network owned by a Russian energy giant.
Speaking at parliamentary hearings last week, Nazarian, attributed those losses to decreased power generation at the Metsamor nuclear plant and hydroelectric stations. He said the Electricity Networks of Armenia (ENA) utility has had to rely on more expensive electricity produced by thermal power plants.
Opposition lawmakers present at the hearings dismissed these explanations. They argued in particular that the electricity price soared by almost 27 percent as recently as in July last year following a surge in the cost of Russian natural gas supplied to Armenia.
In a joint statement, the four opposition parties represented in the National Assembly demanded that the utility regulators refrain from raising the tariff before thoroughly looking into the financial state of the ENA and the broader energy sector.
“A higher electricity price will mean higher prices of many other goods, more poverty and emigration and, even more importantly, it will make our goods less competitive,” said Ruben Hakobian, the parliamentary leader of one of those parties, Zharangutyun (Heritage). He said that the authorities have failed to convincingly explain the causes of the ENA’s losses.
Galust Sahakian, the parliament speaker and a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), insisted, however, that the planned price hike is justified. “Naturally, a price rise is a very bad thing,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But if it’s objective, there is nothing that can be done about it.”
The electricity price in Armenia is currently set at 38 drams (9 U.S. cents) per kilowatt/hour. The PSRC wants to raise it to 42 drams per kilowatt/hour.