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Our View: Government needs to act decisively on opening electricity market

The opening of the competitive electricity market has turned into an ongoing joke. The first deadline missed was in July 2014 and it was followed by one in July 2016, July 2019 and December 2020. On Tuesday, deputies heard that the latest deadline, October 2022, might also be missed.

Akel deputy Costas Costa, who attended the behind closed doors meeting at the House, said the Transmission System Operator (TSO), informed deputies that the “very difficult conditions prevailing in the world energy field are not suitable for the start of a market and proposed putting back that start date of the operation of competitive electricity market so that the market operator acquires the necessary experience and for time be given to complete the procedures for the independence of the TSO.”

The obvious question is what has the operator been doing for the last eight years if not acquiring the necessary experience for administering the competitive market? The person in charge of the TSO must have been paid for the last eight years to do something, so why was he or she not acquiring experience? As for the difficult conditions prevailing in the world energy field, these are just another excuse to the many we have heard over the years. These did not exist when the 2019 and 2020 deadlines were missed.

Costa used the delays to attack the government. “Everything we were shouting about, the slapdash approach and lack of coordination by the government and the unjustified delay in the submission of legislation that would lead to the independence and staffing of the TSO was confirmed at the meeting,” he said. He had a point, and the government deserves criticism for allowing the EAC (Electricity Authority of Cyprus) unions to dictate how the competitive electricity market should come about.

First, they wanted the TSO to be a part of the EAC and threatened strikes if it were not. Subsequently they ‘compromised’, by insisting that it should be staffed by EAC employees. Instead of the government telling the unions the TSO was none of their business it played along with them, allowing them to engage in continuous filibustering. If the EAC employee in charge of the TSO was incapable of running the operator (admission was made at the House), why had the government not outsourced it? It could have hired someone with experience from abroad to be in charge of the operator. This person could also have hired and trained staff for the TSO.

Terrified of the reaction of the powerful EAC unions, the government did not even consider this option, which was the most obvious and rational. Instead, it allowed the unions to carry on playing their obstructive games, fully aware of what was happening. If the farce is to stop the government needs to act decisively now.

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