Thousands of households face energy poverty

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Thousands of Cypriot households are on the verge of falling into energy poverty as they cannot pay their rising electricity bills, leaving them in the dark as the supply is cut off.

According to data presented by Energy Minister Natasa Pilides before MPs, in the first six months, some 5,200 households were left without electricity as they could not pay their bills on time.

This figure is expected to climb further, as the high inflation rate is 9.6% and electricity bills for June-July are to go up 25%.

Based on available data, an average of 9,800 cut-offs were recorded in 2020 and 2021.

The number of low-income households left without electricity in the first six months of the year is also understood to be rising.

From January to June, some 250 low-income households had their electricity supply cut, compared to an average of 440 over 12 months in 2020 and 2021.

The average amount owed by EAC households in 2022 when their electricity was cut off was €340.

During 2020-2021 the average amount owed by households when they lost supply was €290.

Electricity Authority of Cyprus spokesperson Christina Papadopoulou told the Financial Mirror that the authority is doing its best to help low-income households.

“The authority does its best to reach out to clients and come to a settlement before a crew is sent out to cut off their supply,” said Papadopoulou.

She noted that in cases of low-income families, the authority is more than willing to draw up a payment plan of three to four instalments.

“The principle is to have the bill settled before the next one is issued, but in sensitive cases, the authority exhibits more leniency.”

Papadopoulou argued that clients should also be consistent in their payments, as many customers regularly fail to keep up with instalments.

“We are obliged to keep our organisation viable, meeting our auditing criteria.

“The authority is under pressure, and we believe we have done more than we could to alleviate pressure on households from hiking energy prices.”

Papadopoulou noted that tariffs charged for low-income households are about 20% lower than other customers.

She said the lower VAT rate on all residential customers is in effect, with the VAT rate for homes reduced to 9% from 19% and will remain until the end of August.

The VAT rate for vulnerable groups is reduced to 5%.

Papadopoulou said the EAC offered a 10% reduction for 10 months on all its customer tariffs during the pandemic costing €53 mln – with nothing left to soften the cost-of-living crisis.

The EAC confirmed that electricity bills for June and July would be 25% higher due to hiking energy costs.