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Our View: More delays in opening up the electricity market

file photo: high voltage power lines and electricity pylons near berlin

Nobody would have been surprised to have heard that the opening of the electricity market to independent providers will be postponed yet again. This was meant to have happened in mid-October, but deputies were informed on Tuesday that the Transmission System Operator (TSO), which would be the electricity market operator, was nowhere near ready for the task.

Originally, the market would have been opened up in July 2014, which was then put back to July 2016, then July 2019, then December 2020 and finally October 2022. We may have to wait another two or three years before the TSO is ready. According to one of its officials, speaking at the House energy committee on Tuesday, it was facing a series of technical problems related to the software system that would run the energy exchange platform.

Opposition deputies placed the blame on the government for moving at a snail’s pace. It had not even submitted the regulations related the job descriptions of the staff of the TSO nor had it prepared the bill that would allow the transfer of employees from the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) to the TSO. Meanwhile the head of the EAC said the Authority would have to hire an additional 270 workers for the transition. The energy regulator Raek and the TSO expressed concern over whether the new system could operate without the necessary staff with the required experience.

These are justified concerns, but what we need to ask is what has been happening for the last eight years? If the original target for opening up the electricity market was 2014, why, eight years later and after another four missed deadlines, is the TSO still not ready? What have the energy ministry and the EAC been doing for the last eight years? One thing was that they were bickering with the powerful EAC unions that did not want the TSO to be an independent body, but wanted it to be under the control of EAC.

The government gave in to this unreasonable demand – the operator being run by the main supplier – thus allowing the EAC, the management and staff of which have been opposed to the opening up of the market that would end the authority’s monopolistic power, to have control of the process. The politicians who are now complaining about the delays, never saw anything wrong with giving the responsibility of opening up the market to the body that opposed it because it had the most to lose.

When the electricity market would be opened up to competition is anyone’s guess but it does not look like it will be soon.

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