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Electricity hikes being re-calculated: economics minister

Electricity hikes being re-calculated: economics minister

Taipei, May 1 (CNA) In the face of vociferous opposition to a government-planned increase in electricity rates, Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang said Tuesday that the ministry is carefully recalculating the hikes and will announce the new rates only after it has completed careful evaluation. Shih was responding to questions from the media on the sidelines of a meeting of ruling Kuomintang (KMT) legislators to solicit their views on the controversial planned hikes, as well as their opinions on if and how any changes should be made. The ministry announced last month that household electricity rates will increase by an average of 16.9 percent with effect from May 15. Commercial electricity rates will rise by 30 percent, while industrial rates will be hiked by 35 percent, according to the government's original plan. KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao cited Shih as saying after the meeting that the electricity fees could "be discounted," "have modest increases," or "not be hiked in a single stage." "All related issues are still under consideration and we have yet to make a final decision," Lai quoted Shih as saying. Lawmaker Lin Te-fu, also of the KMT, suggested waiting until after the summer peak usage time before implementing any raises, referring to the period between June 1 and Sept. 30, when rates are customarily hiked by 15 percent. In response, Shih said that if the increases are held back until then, Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) could sustain an additional NT$40 billion (US$1.37 billion) in losses. The Bureau of Energy said that day that electricity rates will definitely be increased May 15, but added that the bureau will also consider the impact on the country's industrial sector. Also that day, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said there is a possibility that the rate hikes could be made in several stages. After Wang proposed the multi-stage hike at a top-brass meeting the previous day, reports surfaced that the Cabinet could increase the rates in two stages -- in May and October. However, Wang said he had not suggested a two-stage hike, adding that three or four stages are also possible, but would require careful assessment. Meanwhile, other KMT legislators said they were happy that the Cabinet has finally responded to the voice of the people on what has become a hot-button issue. KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung said incremental power rate hikes will lessen the pressure on the public, while a lower level of hikes will also lessen the impact on the nation's industry. "I'm glad that the Cabinet is finally willing to take a step back and reconsider," Ting said. Their counterparts in the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the root of the issue will be to demand that Taiwan Power Co. review its operations and take steps to reduce waste, adding that if Taipower was able to manage itself in a competent manner, it would not even have to hike rates. DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung said that if the "one-time" rate hikes are ditched in favor of smaller hikes in stages, then the economics minister and Taipower executives should step down to take responsibility for causing panic among the people as a result of flawed policy. Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi said President Ma Ying-jeou and the Cabinet will continue to communicate with society and listen to their suggestions on the issue. (By Justin Su, Ho Meng-kuei, Chen Wei-ting, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Lilian Wu)


Updated : 2021-04-17 21:43 GMT+08:00