The House on Thursday gave the nod to a law that unties the hands of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA), allowing the semi-governmental organisation to land a contract for supplying and installing 400,000 smart meters.

The government tabled the relevant bill to parliament only this week, with a plea to MPs to fast-track it. Lawmakers obliged, discussing the bill in committee on Thursday and later on in the same day they forwarded it to the plenum for a vote.

Thursday’s session of the plenum was the last before the House adjourns for the European Parliament and local government elections of June 9.

With the law now enacted, CyTA can legally be awarded a contract to supply to the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) some 400,000 smart meters. The installation of at least 50,000 smart meters by a cutoff date this year is an undertaking of Cyprus with the European Commission, under the Recovery and Resilience Facility. At stake was a €35 million grant from the facility.

The issue was that on March 26 this year, the administrative court had ruled that the tender for the supply and installation of the smart meters – which CyTA won – was null and void. This not only denied CyTA the contract, but also jeopardised the €35 million grant from the EU.

The administrative court said at the time that CyTA was prohibited from supplying smart meters because this does not fall within its permissible scope of business. Under the applicable telecommunications law, the provision of telecom services by CyTA is limited to “communications between persons and not devices”. By contrast, smart meters involve communication between devices.

To get around this constraint, the government simply moved to change the law. Under the amendment to the telecommunications law, which the House passed on Thursday, CyTA is now permitted to engage in “projects and activities related to making use of its assets, its technical or commercial capabilities, its facilities, its services and its technical know-how in the event such activities are deemed necessary and beneficial to the organisation”.

In brief, the new law expands the scope of business activities which CyTA may engage in.

The smart meter purchase saga has been ongoing since 2018, when the energy regulator 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.