The electricity authority (EAC) is scrambling to find a solution to its stalled smart meter installation on Wednesday, while it is as yet unclear whether European Union funding will be impacted.

Smart meters are touted to help customers save money through highly accurate billing and customised energy use feedback, enabling consumers to make conscious choices towards reducing their carbon footprint. Additionally, they are seen a necessary technology for enabling operators to disconnect users from the grid whenever a critical limit of renewable energy absorption gets reached, thus ensuring the stability of the system.

According to a report in Phileftheros, the EAC Board decided in April not to re-announce an open tender for the supply of smart meters, but to instead proceeded with direct negotiation with a well-known European provider.

The EAC also decided not to ask for 400,000 smart meters, as was the original intention, but only 50,000 meters, in a bid to partly satisfy the state’s commitment to the European Commission and hang on to the €35 million grant earmarked for the endeavour from recovery and resilience funds. According to the daily, the EAC intends to make up the shortfall with a subsequent purchase.

In going for a direct negotiation, the EAC has resorted to a fast-track tender procedure provided for by law, which covers essential public services, such as of water, energy, transport and the postal service provision.

However, it is also unclear whether the general auditor has officially greenlighted this move, according to the daily.

Granting exception through the law hinges on proof of urgency and also of the EAC not being responsible for the four-year delay in smart meter supply.

Meanwhile, on the backburner, the EAC and Cyta are waiting results of pending appeals to overturn the courts’ determination that the latter is not legally permitted to provide anything but telecommunication services.

At the end of March the EAC had been left in the lurch after the administrative court’s decision to forbid the telecommunications authority (Cyta) from being awarded the tender. According to the EAC, Cyta had been the only company able to offer the correctly prescribed meters.

EAC Board Director Giorgos Petrou, at the time told CyBC that the authority had been caught off guard by the court’s decision, despite warnings by the state auditor that the legality of the tender was in question.

The EAC was thus faced with no other course of action than to appeal to the Supreme Court over the matter and request an extension from the EU.

The original EU deadline ended at the end of March and it has yet to be officially announced whether an EU extension has been granted.

The smart meter purchase saga has been ongoing since 2018, when the Cyprus energy regulator (Cera) issued a decision calling on the EAC to start installation in 2020. In 2021, a long-delayed tender was announced but all the decisions of the EAC since then have been annulled by the tender review authority or the administrative court.

In August 2023, the EAC fumbled implementation when a successful tenderer informed the authority that due to the long interim delay between the tender’s submission and its award, the specific smart meter model was no longer available from the manufacturer.