Vote PN if you want overcharging refund

Come next election, the electorate has a very clear choice to make when it comes to energy policy

After years of overcharging customers on their utility bills, Labour has finally committed itself to change the erroneous billing mechanism. The Nationalist Party has been speaking up about this theft since 2018, when an exercise carried out by my colleague David Agius, then Opposition Spokesperson for Energy, established that 80% of 1,000 different accounts were overcharged, some by a few euros, others by hundreds.

In his budget speech, the finance minister didn’t admit that the billing mechanism was wrong; in fact he said it was correct according to the “regulator’s” decision - but tried to give the impression that the change was simply being effected following a public outcry. There could be a reason why the Minister stopped short of admitting that the mechanism was erroneous. And that could be so that his government would not be forced to refund consumers for payments made in overcharging. This is Machiavellian politics.

The finance minister also tried to blame former Nationalist administrations for the irregular billing mechanism. He is factually wrong. The mechanism pre-Labour was different as consumers would receive two actual and four estimate bills on a yearly basis pre-2013. When Labour was elected to government, ARMS started issuing six actual bills every year. This is what created the overcharging and why the Nationalist Party is committing itself to refund overcharged consumers from 2013 onwards.

The Auditor General had found that this overcharging amounted to circa €6.5 million yearly, totalling to circa €50 million since 2013. But we all know that Labour has absolute disregard to our institutions, and that includes the Auditor General.

Come next election, the electorate has a very clear choice to make when it comes to energy policy. A PN government would refund you for any overcharging payments made in connection to your utility bills, and change the billing mechanism once and for all. In addition, he promised to purchase energy from the cheapest source and do away with the take-or-pay obligation with Electrogas.

PN’s advantageous electric car charging tariffs

The finance minister has unfortunately also ignored our proposal to reduce the existing charging tariff for electric cars from 13c5 to the minimum band of 10c5. Whilst it is positive to note that the grant on capital expenditure has increased (although this also has been criticised for not being substantial to create the required momentum to enable a large-scale shift), consumers investing in electric cars will not be offered the most advantageous tariff. Furthermore, our proposal will not only be limited to a Sunday – when you’re meant to go out and about using your electric car; and weekly between noon and 4pm – when most are at work earning a living!

Here again lies a stark distinction from Labour. We truly believe in the benefits of electric cars, mostly to reduce emissions at street level and to improve respiratory health problems through the improvement of air quality.

Bad hedging is wrong

Much has been said about the increasing international price of gas. Here again, Labour wants us to rejoice for having hedged for four years at a fixed price. The only problem is they have hedged at relatively high gas prices. Hedging is not bad, it’s bad hedging that is wrong.

On the 25th April 2018, the Guardian had stated that “Malta losing money ‘hand over fist’ from Azerbaijan energy deal” with Socar profiting circa €40 million when selling gas to Electrogas, who then in turn provides energy to Enemalta, featuring the €40 million in the price of every unit of energy sold. Two years later, on the 25 May 2020, the Sunday Times reported that “Malta’s gas costs seven times more than European average” for an agreement made in 2015 with Socar.

Now that gas prices have increased due to the post-pandemic economic recovery, Labour wants us to be grateful for this hedging agreement. But grateful for what exactly? Perhaps for having made us pay seven times more the price of gas for the past years through our utility bills! No thank you.