By Ruben Meloyan
Armenia’s national gas distribution company said on Tuesday that it has asked state regulators to approve its new retail tariffs stemming from a 40 percent increase in the cost of natural gas imported from Russia.
Under the terms of an agreement signed by the ArmRosGazprom (ARG) company with Russia’s Gazprom monopoly last September, the gas price for Armenia will grow from $110 to $154 per thousand cubic meters starting from April 1, 2009. The retail prices of gas supplied to Armenian consumers are due to be adjusted accordingly by that time.
A spokeswoman for ARG, Shushan Sardarian, told RFE/RL that the company sent late Monday relevant proposals to the state Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC), which has the exclusive authority to set this and other utility tariffs.
According to Sardarian, ARG wants to raise the gas price for households from 84,000 drams to 99,000 drams ($323) per thousand cubic meters. She said the price rise for corporate consumers sought by ARG is much higher: 50 percent. Even so, the latter would continue to pay significantly less for gas than Armenian households.
A spokesman for the PSRC, Mariam Stepanian, told RFE/RL that the regulatory body will likely make a decision on the ARG application by the end of this month. The PSRC has usually granted such requests in the past.
The anticipated price hikes could push up the cost of other key services such as public transportation and electricity. Most buses and minibuses in Armenia run on liquefied or pressurized gas. Gas is also used by Armenian thermal-power plants generating about one-third of the country’s electricity.
The gas tariffs already surged by 50 percent in May last year after the Armenian government stopped subsidizing them with proceeds from a controversial 2006 deal with Gazprom that left more Armenian energy assets under Russian control. Under the September deal with Gazprom, Armenia will pay $200 per thousand cubic meters of Russian gas from April 2010.