Tuesday, May 10, 2022 | 3:12 p.m.
The public hearing to consider the new prices of natural gas at the Point of Entry to the Transportation System (PIST) began this Tuesday, in what constitutes the first step for the Ministry of Energy to establish the tariff schemes that will govern as of June .
The hearing was attended by 25 of the 38 registered speakers, most of them representatives of consumer defense entities and ombudsmen from different jurisdictions.
The meeting was chaired by the Undersecretary of Hydrocarbons, Maggie Videla, and took place in virtual mode, informed Télam.
In this context, the official pointed out that the beneficiaries of the social tariff will have an increase equivalent to 40% of the Salary Variation Coefficient -that is, 20%-, and 80% for those who did not have that benefit, that is to say of the order of 40%, considering that the CVS was 53.4% in 2021.
In addition, he underlined the “conviction” of the government that “rates have corrections below the evolution of wages.”
The Ministry of Energy proposed an average increase of 20% in the natural gas service for users without a social tariff, while for those who have this benefit, the current values would be maintained.
Videla recalled the announcement made by President Alberto Fernández before the Legislative Assembly on the need for a “total annual readjustment in their bills”, and pointed out that the beneficiaries of the social rate will have an increase equivalent to 40% of the Salary Variation Coefficient, and 80% for those who did not have that benefit.
Since the CVS was 53.4% in 2021, those adjustments for the full year should be 21.3% and 42.7%, respectively.
Videla recalled that tariff increases were made in February and, taking gas distributors from four different regions as an example, he pointed out that due to the variations approved in a timely manner, “it would not be appropriate to make any corrections” in the case of the beneficiaries of the social tariff.
As for those who do not have this benefit, which Videla characterized as “common citizens”, the increases arranged in February were between 13.7% and 20.5%.
Consequently, the increases for these users should be, according to the examples presented by Videla at the hearing, from 18% to 25.5%.
As a summary, the undersecretary pointed out that “users without a social rate, ordinary citizens, would have a 20% increase in bills.”
According to Videla, the National State covers 75.6% of the total cost of natural gas with subsidies, with higher percentages in the winter months.
In his presentation, he pointed out that, as a result of the increases in international prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the cost of supply is equivalent to 5.76 dollars per million BTU (British Thermal Unit, according to its acronym in English).
Of this amount, the average cost faced by the national State is 4.35 dollars and that of the user is 1.41 dollars.
Based on these values, “it is estimated that the State covers 75.6% of the cost of natural gas to supply priority demand,” Videla said in his presentation.
Complaints: “It is not opportune”
Most of the exhibitors who participated this Tuesday in the first of the three public hearings to analyze proposals for adjustments in energy rates expressed their disagreement with what they considered to be a limited time to speak and a lack of information about the exploitation costs of gas. and profits of generating, transporting and distributing companies.
Likewise, they requested a review of the dollarization of gas prices at the wellhead and in some cases demanded that the increases proposed by the Ministry of Energy not be applied, not only for the beneficiaries of the social rate but also for those who do not have that rate. condition, both residential users and SMEs.
One of the most emphatic speakers was the provincial deputy of Mendoza for Federal Unity and Equity, José Luis Ramón, who questioned the presentation made at the beginning of the hearing by the Undersecretary of Hydrocarbons, Maggie Videla, who pointed out that the beneficiaries of the social rate they would not have a new increase after the adjustment made in February, while those who did not have this regime would pay an additional increase of 20% on average in their bills.
“That is a lie presented to some media outlets that are going to pay for the stoppage of the increases,” he exclaimed, while considering the cost chart presented by the undersecretary “false” and assuring that “the families of the cold zones are going to have 60% increases.
For his part, the mayor of Esteban Echeverría’s party in Buenos Aires, Fernando Gray, asked that the increases be postponed because he understood that “it is not an opportune moment” and that their application “would affect not only the vulnerable sectors but also those of middle class, SMEs and public welfare entities”.
Likewise, he demanded greater investments in infrastructure in his district and questioned that “in the XXI century” there are sectors of the population without network gas service.
Raúl Zavalía, from the Fundación Pro Vivienda Social, expressed himself in the same vein, stating that “it is paradoxical that we are discussing rates when 50% of Argentine families do not have access to the gas network”, in addition to warning that ” what we save through subsidies we pay for through inflation”.
The head of the Defense of Users and Consumers (Deuco), Pedro Bussetti, expressed his “displeasure” for having established an exposure time of five minutes instead of ten as in previous hearings, while Paula Soldi, from the Center for Studies for the Promotion of Equality and Solidarity (Cepis), demanded more information about “the true costs” and the profits of the licensees, so that “the sustained growth of our economy is not carried away by four or five types.”
For her part, the radical deputy Jimena Latorre questioned the government for what she considered an “inconsistency” between announcing a cut in subsidies and at the same time increasing rates below inflation and wage variation.
Latorre also highlighted the absence from the audience of both the Secretary of Energy, Darío Martínez, and the head of the National Gas Regulatory Entity (Enargas), Federico Bernal, who attributed them to “the insiders” of the government.
In another order, Roberto Salerno, from the Association for the Defense of User and Consumer Rights (Adduc), proposed “reviewing the basic regulations that protect the dollarization of rates” at the wellhead.
Likewise, he said that “it is not so true that we are demanding excessively the requirement of subsidies”, and assured that Argentina is ranked 68th in the world among the countries in which the State financially assists the provision of services. public.
The continuity of the hearing will be tomorrow, Wednesday, and the new seasonal reference prices of the Seasonal Price of Electricity (PEST) will be discussed.
Meanwhile, on Thursday the implementation of segmentation in the granting of energy price subsidies by the State to users of the natural gas and electricity service for the 2022-2023 biennium will be discussed.