The energy ministry and the electricity authority (EAC) are studying alternative solutions for the provision of smart meters to avoid repeated delays, Energy Minister George Papanastasiou said on Tuesday.

Smart meters are seen as a key requirement for the management of distributed renewable energy, he added.

Last week, the administrative court forbade the telecommunications authority (Cyta) from being awarded the tender to install smart meters, leaving EAC with no choice but to appeal to the Supreme Court over the matter and request an extension from the EU.

“At the ministry and EAC, we are working on an alternative solution, which will most likely be outside the realm of public tenders,” Papanastasiou said after attending the House commerce committee, without giving any further details.

He had told the committee that the thinking is to declare smart meters as “critical infrastructure”.

The issue has been ongoing for two years and goes from “postponement to postponement,” he said.

Regarding the issue of European funds through the Recovery and Resilience Plan, the minister said the EAC asked the General Directorate for Development to grant an extension as a result of appeals which it had not made.

We must respect the court’s decision,” he said. “The EAC can appeal the decision, I understand that it has done so, but at the end of the day we should, at the same time, operate in other directions”.

What is needed are decisions on the smart meter issue, House energy committee chair Kyriakos Hadjiyiannis said.

“They don’t care about time, they care that they will go to appeal,” he said. “The timetable is open and instead they will take steps not to lose the €30 million from the EU.

“They are studying what they are studying to find alternative ways; in other words, the matter has taken its way to appeal and therefore we do not have a specific timetable… I wish patience for Cypriot electricity consumers,” he said.

According to the commitments of the Republic towards the EU, the deal with the supplier of 400,000 smart meters should have been finalised by March 2024. By September the EAC must receive 50,000 meters and install 15,000. By June 2026 all 400,000 meters must be received and 250,000 installations should be completed.

Last May EAC spokeswoman Christina Papadopoulou had said actual installation would not start until June following a one-year survey period, including a brief pilot programme.

The committee also heard that there will be a test operation of the competitive electricity market at the end of the year.

“All the bodies involved – the ministry of energy, [Cyprus Energy Regulatory Authority] Cera, the Cyprus Transmission System Operator – specify that the market will go into trial competitive operation until the end of the year and there is a timetable with all the actions that each body must take so that this can be implemented,” Papanastasiou said.

He noted that he informed the House because there is a high probability of implementation, since, as he said, there is constant challenge from various agencies and the House energy committee.

“I thought it right that I should mention that the end of the year is the goal, which is achievable with a probability of 70 per cent,” he added.

Hadjiyiannis said the minister’s reports on the opening of the competitive electricity market were made “to escape communication”.

Nothing is true, he isn’t telling the truth,” he said. “On December 31, 2024, the trial period will just repeat and it will not be the real opening of the market, let’s be more serious and respect what we say to the Cypriot people and especially to the suffering Cypriot electricity consumer,” he concluded.