Armenia’s national electric utility has promised a 25 percent reduction in the price of electricity supplied by it to low-income families, Energy Minister Artur Grigorian announced on Friday.
Grigorian said the Electricity Networks of Armenia (ENA) operator agreed to the price cut as a result of “negotiations” held with the Armenian Ministry of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources. The tariff will go down “at the expense of ENA’s profits” and cost the company 2 billion drams ($4.1 million) in annual revenue, he said.
Speaking after a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan, the minister told reporters that the discount will apply to at least 110,000 families and most probably take effect on July 1. He insisted that ENA was not pressurized by the government into cutting the tariff.
The daytime electricity price for poor households is currently set at 40 drams (over 8 U.S. cents) per kilowatt/hour. It will fall to 30 drams per kilowatt/hour, according to Grigorian.
ENA declined to immediately confirm this information. The utility is owned by the Tashir Group of Russian-Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetian.
Tashir seems to have significantly reduced ENA’s massive losses since purchasing the debt-ridden company from a state-run Russian energy giant, Inter RAO, in 2015. It has also pledged to make substantial capital investments in the aging power distribution network.
During the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told Grigorian to continue exploring possibilities of also cutting the electricity price for the rest of the country’s population. It currently pays almost 45 drams per kilowatt/hour.
Grigorian cited “a number of risks” complicating an across-the-board price cut. In particular, he argued that the nuclear power plant at Metsamor will be brought to a halt soon for prolonged capital repairs designed to extend the life of its sole reactor. Armenia will have to rely on more expensive energy generated by natural gas during the stoppage.
The energy minister also pointed out that a Russian-Armenian agreement on the price of Russian natural gas supplied to Armenia expires at the end of this year. He thus did not exclude that the gas price will be raised next year.