By Stelios Orphanides
A business group representing investors in power generation and supply warned the government not to give in to union demands to ditch plans for the liberalisation of the energy market by mid-2019.
The Cyprus Free and Competitive Energy Market Business Association (CFCEMBA) said the outcome of behind the scenes talks between the government and the unions at the state-owned Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) is threatening private investment in the energy market.
The warning came as the government tries to avert labour action announced by workers at the power producer which has a de facto monopoly. Four unions at EAC – Epopai, Sidikek-Peo, Sepaik and Syvaik – plan a two-hour work stoppage on Thursday, November 9, and a 24-hour strike on November 16.
According to a report in Politis, the unions demand that instead of the operation of an independent Transmission System Operator (TSO), the bureau of an independent Market Officer is established which will allow the TSO to operate as part of EAC. EAC chairman Andreas Marangos, a government-appointee, proposed to the unions to delay independent operation of the TSO for a two-year period, delaying the liberalisation of the energy market for a further two years.
“The political leadership is trying to square the circle in an attempt to hush the unions with their unreasonable demands,” the business group said in an emailed statement adding that it has not been asked to participate in the negotations that affect its members. “As always, stakeholders are never invited”.
“The TSO is the par excellence technical body of the state which ensures the smooth operation of the power grid,” the CFCEMBA said.
Giving in to the unions’ demands would be like giving a private bank full ownership over the Central Bank of Cyprus, which supervises lenders which contradicts “all reason and corporate governance” rules.
“If the state wants to see the new competitive power market become reality and operate smoothly, it will have to offer confidence and a stable environment to all market participants,” the group said. “Which self-respecting entrepreneur would invest in a market whose supreme regulator is in the hands of his competitor’s unions?”