Malta Independent

Controvers­ial bi-monthly electricit­y billing system to remain in place following review process

- Albert Galea

A review of the electricit­y billing system will not include changes to the bi-monthly billing system that was at the heart of much controvers­y earlier this year, Minister for Energy and Waste Management Joe Mizzi has told The Malta Independen­t.

Speaking yesterday to this newsroom, which was the first to put the issue on the national agenda, Mizzi admitted that there were “big problems” with the smart meter system and for a long time it had seemed like the investment being made was

one without positive results. However this was a system that had long been in the offing, with Mizzi explaining how he had found documents from years ago showing that even the previous government had aimed to shift electricit­y bills to this bi-monthly system.

He admitted, though, that problems with the system persisted today, adding that while they were being dealt with efficientl­y, there was room for even more improvemen­t.

Mizzi said that the system could could not yet be entirely automated. In this respect, he said, the government had to ensure that earlier readings and other measures were conducted where an automatic system was not possible. Mizzi also said that his ministry would be consulting the public with a view to seeing what else could be done to mitigate some of the existing problems, in addition to the work of technician­s to improve technical problems.

The bi-monthly billing system has drawn a lot of controvers­y in the past, with economist Marie Briguglio having shown how the annual allocation of free units per household set at law is eroded when the units are broken down every two months. As a result, some families have ended up paying more for electricit­y.

The same issue has also been raised by the Nationalis­t Party, who requested a parliament­ary discussion on the matter, and Minister Mizzi himself has been subject to a number of parliament­ary questions in recent months. Last May, in response to to a parliament­ary question tabled by PN deputy leader for parliament­ary affairs David Agius, Mizzi said that the system might result in materialis­tically higher bills, especially if consumptio­n was not consistent throughout the year.

However, he insisted that he wanted to discourage people from wasting energy and that the investment of “millions” of euros was to sustain the bimonthly billing system. He said that his aim was to incentivis­e people to be more cautious with their consumptio­n.

This caution falls under the definition of the ‘polluters pay’ principle, which Malta uses to calculate consumptio­n. This principle essentiall­y means that those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to human health or the environmen­t. This was a principle that is utilised across all European countries, Mizzi said, and it helped incentivis­e people to consume less energy and hence pollute less.

Mizzi explained that this principle would remain at the heart of the review process and that the government would continue to find ways to incentivis­e more people to consume less energy in their daily lives.

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