The prices of electricity in Armenia are also likely to rise soon because of the increased cost of natural gas imported from Russia, the state utilities regulator announced on Thursday.
The Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) said it has started “reviewing” the electricity tariffs following a drastic increase in the gas price demanded by Armenia’s national gas distribution network.
According to the PSRC chairman, Robert Nazarian, the commission thus also responded to long-standing wishes of Armenian power generating and distributing companies. “They have long wanted us to revise and raise the electricity tariffs but waited because there was an issue conditioned by the increase in the gas price,” Nazarian told reporters.
Under Armenian law, the PSRC has to make a decision within the next three months. Nazarian declined to specify the scale of the planned price hikes. He said only that the commission will likely raise the prices of electricity supplied to both the national power distribution network and households.
The electricity fee for individual consumers has remained unchanged at 30 drams (7 U.S. cents) per kilowatt/hour since 2009. The PSRC did not raise it when it last sanctioned a gas price rise in 2010.
Observers in Yerevan note that the planned price hikes come after President Serzh Sarkisian secured his reelection in the February 18 presidential ballot and his Republican Party’s landslide victory in the May 5 municipal polls in Yerevan. Armenia is due to hold its next major election in 2017.
Samvel Avagian, an economic analyst, questioned the official rationale for raising the electricity prices, saying that a higher gas price alone is not sufficient grounds for that. Thermal power plants using natural gas generate less than one-third of Armenia’s electricity.
“Today gas is not playing a serious role in our energy balance sheet,” Avagian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Maybe there are other factors which we are not aware of. Maybe nuclear fuel too has become more expensive.”
Another commentator, Armenak Chatinian, accused the authorities of recouping their spending on the allegedly widespread vote buying in the recent elections. “People should not have accepted 5,000 drams and voted,” he said. “When you sell your vote in elections you must be ready to pay the consequences.”