Consumer reluctance and major obstacles to “closing the wound” of 35 kVA subsidies

Consumer reluctance and major obstacles to “closing the wound” of 35 kVA subsidies

The first suppliers have initiated the process which will “unblock” TEM financing of additional subsidies for companies supplied up to 35 kVA (and bakeries regardless of the power supply), for the period from February to November 2022 These businesses they amount to 1.25 million, including restaurants, hair salons, shops and kiosks, among others.

As is to write energypress, the procedure provides for the establishment of a responsible declaration by their business customers, on the basis of which it will be checked whether or not these companies exceed specific cumulative ceilings on the state aid they have received. So, the first providers have already informed their customers about it, while posting the statement on their websites.

As is known, the vast majority of providers covered these additional subsidies with equity. Thus, the outcome of the above process will allow them to recover the corresponding sums from the Energy Transition Fund. Market leaders estimate that the supply industry as a whole has spent more than €500 million to fund the additional subsidies for this particular category of commercial consumers.

Reluctant customers

However, even in the few cases of providers who have not provided the additional subsidies, their clients’ response to completing and submitting responsible declarations is currently trending at low levels. Thus, despite the fact that in this particular case small businesses have a tangible incentive to comply with the procedure (since they will retroactively receive the additional subsidies to which they are entitled), the percentage of small businesses that have completed the procedure does not exceed 15%.

Even more reluctant are the business customers of suppliers who have received additional subsidies, with their suppliers’ money. In this particular case, the response rate is only 10%, while most of the responsible declarations were transmitted either incomplete or incorrectly completed.

The agents of the market point out that it turns out in practice that the procedure decided upon is impracticable, so that the suppliers can recover the amounts with which they covered the additional aid. A process that entrusts service providers with the responsibility not only of collecting responsible declarations, but of controlling them.

The “fundament” of the problem is the fact that the additional subsidies were applied throughout 2022 (from April 2022 and with retroactive effect to the beginning of the year) without prior agreement with the Commission. Thus, the manner of granting the additional subsidies (which was mentioned in each of the PEN Minister’s monthly letters to suppliers since April) is not compatible with the retroactive “green light” of the measure by the Commission.

The reason for this is that the measure was applied horizontally, whereas the approval provides criteria for granting the aid. Worse still, the Commission’s “green light” leaves aside January and December 2023, thus blocking for companies that have covered the additional subsidies of these two months with own funds, the recovery of the corresponding amounts from the TEM.

Suppliers are at an impasse

However, it turns out that it is almost impossible to find a solution for the period from February to November 2022, for which the measure was approved. And this because the additional aid had been paid horizontally by mistake (as the Ministry had requested from the providers), since it was then laid down as a condition that the beneficiary companies had not received state aid which in total exceeded certain limits. A condition that will be checked by responsible declarations if it is satisfied.

Even after the implementation KYA was released, market leaders noted to energypress that the responsible reporting obligation, which suppliers have assumed, does not simply “translate” into an incredible workload. On the contrary, in many cases this is not practical, as for example a professional consumer may have suspended his activity or changed supplier in the meantime.

Now, however, the weak response from commercial consumers, to suppliers who have so far attempted to collect responsible claims, further shows that this solution is not feasible. So, at least in theory, for small businesses that do not respond by completing the declaration, or if they are found to have exceeded state aid limits, the only option suppliers have is to request reimbursement of the amounts to their customers, crediting them to a subsequent account.

However, this possibility boils down in practice to a dead end, the supply code does not impose any restriction on the change of supplier by indebted consumers. Therefore, an “inflated” invoice (with the chargeback of additional subsidies) would lead many business customers to simply switch suppliers, leaving the invoice unpaid. This means that trying to recover customers’ money would simply mean that each provider would “destroy” their customer base, failing to secure the money they spent.

It is recalled that ESPEN (Hellenic Association of Energy Suppliers) sent a relevant letter to the Ministry of Energy, arguing that it must ensure the immediate reimbursement of debts that have accumulated with suppliers since the granting of the subsidies to date, without the condition of submitting a responsible declaration for its first administration. Also, with regard to the collection and control of declarations, he notes that it should be entrusted to a body of the financial function (for example the AADE).

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