Energy Minister coy on changes to ARMS billing system or quota rationing; studies are at ‘final stages’
Julian Bonnici Energy Minister Joe Mizzi was coy as to whether there would be any changes to ARMS billing system, quota rationing, or the two-month billing system when speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday.
Mizzi was asked by the newsroom to elaborate further on his statements that incentives were due to be introduced for people who are careful with their electricity consumption through changes in the eco-reduction mechanism when giving comments to MaltaToday.
While stressing that there had been an extensive study into the issue which was in its final stages, Mizzi would not say whether quota-rationing or changes to the two-month billing system, which are the cause of much of the controversy into the matter, would occur, saying that analysis of the studies is taking place at the moment.
Asked whether there were any times frames for the suggest proposals to become a reality, Mizzi said that he does not think of timeframes, explaining that he wanted the changes to be implemented properly.
“I don’t want to take long and we won’t take much longer, but things need to be done properly,” Mizzi said.
Earlier this year, issues were raised on ARMS billing more frequently, resulting in higher bills. Most people believe that the different electricity tariffs for different levels of consumption advertised on the ARMS website are based on annual consumption.
The principle behind the different tariffs is the more you consume, the more you pay. Tariffs start at 10c5 for the first 2000 units consumed, move on to 12c9 for the next 4,000 units, 16c for the next 4000 units after that, 35c for the next 10,000 units and 60c for anything beyond that. The different rates are charged per household and not per person.
Despite there being no explanation whatsoever on the ARMS or Enemalta website or by any politician coming from successive governments, ARMS has calculated bills based on a system of quota rationing.
It takes the global figures quoted above – for instance, 2,000 units at 10c5, and divides the units by 365 days (one year) and again multiplies by the number of days covering a particular bill in question.
In effect, ARMS is cutting up the differently priced units of electricity per day, which gives you 5.479 units per day at 10c5, some 10.959 units per day at 12c9 and so on. While people in smaller households with only one or two people may not have noticed an increase in their bills, because they consume their electricity more smoothly and may spend a considerable time out of the house, families have certainly noticed an increase in their bills.
Some have called for the bills to be issued every six months so that high consumption may be offset by low consumption resulting in a fairer rationing of the quotas, while others say that if ARMS carries out a reconciliation exercise at the end of the year based on annual consumption, it could rebate customers for any overpayment.
A class-action lawsuit against the billing practice has been launched.