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Riigikogu committee sends universal service bill to first reading

Cords plugged into an extension cord.
Cords plugged into an extension cord. Source: Riigikogu

The Economic Affairs Committee on Friday approved the universal electricity service bill aimed at relieving high electricity prices and sent it to the plenary of the Riigikogu for its first reading. Opposition parties believe the solution is half-baked.

The universal service to be implemented in October is an alternative to market-based plans, the price of which will depend not on fluctuations on the market but rather electricity production costs, electricity producer profits established by the Competition Authority as well as environmental charges.

"This will provide those who switch to the universal service or terminate their [existing] contract and choose the universal service with the knowledge that their price will fall within a fairly clear range — that it won't fluctuate so dramatically," explained MP Kristen Michal (Reform), chair of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu. "It may still fluctuate based on what Eesti Energia's inputs are, but it still won't fluctuate in that market range anymore."

The committee is in agreement that in a time of crisis, consumers need to be helped, but the opposition believes that the current solution is half-baked. Committee deputy chair, MP Rene Kokk (EKRE) says that the price of the service is still unclear.

"This price has been variously speculated on in the press," Kokk said. "There's been talk of €150-200, but if we just look at the price of Eesti Energia's universal service over the past three years, then I daresay that this price could be significantly cheaper."

He added that the final price of the universal service could be significantly reduced by removing the price of the CO2 quota from electricity production.

"Right now, the quota is a budgetary revenue for the government or state, as quotas are sold," Kokk said. "As we're currently in a very exceptional and difficult situation, then decisions must be made as well, and compensating this quota price is one possible solution."

According to committee member MP Taavi Aas (Center), the universal service focuses only on household consumers, but leaves businesses in a bind.

"Business-owners are facing the exact same challenges," Aas said. "It is through business-owners that price increases, additional inflation are reaching people. And, once again, the very high risk of people, employees losing their jobs."

According to the Center MP, the compensation of energy transmission fees, for example, could provide business-owners with some relief.

Michal acknowledged that business support is indeed not reflected in the universal service to be implemented.

"This bill is regarding a universal service meant for residents, household consumers and apartment associations and so on," the committee chair stressed. "The government will be discussing support measures for businesses separately, which the minister also already told and promised us."

The universal service is initially slated to be implemented for a four-year period, with the option to extend it if needed. The Riigikogu will convene for an extraordinary sitting to discuss the bill next week.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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