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Toni Schönfelder
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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

Russians Plan To Jack Energy Prices 0232 GMT, 000420 Russia's major utilities are set to raise their prices. The Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, with Kremlin approval, will hike prices by 20 percent May 1. Electricity prices also will be increased later this year. Both of these moves will anger the already poor populace. Not only might this offer an opportunity for President-elect Vladimir Putin to sweep some oligarchs out of powerful positions, but it may also signal that Russia is moving toward nationalization of its key industries Bloomberg reported that Russia's Federal Energy Commission chairman, Andrei Zadernyuk, said that Gazprom CEO Rem Vyakhirev wanted a 42 percent price hike, but was convinced to settle for an increase of 15 percent for residential customers and 20 percent for industries. Unified Energy Systems (UES), the only electricity supplier, reportedly plans to raise rates by as much as 55 percent by the end of this year, beginning with a 30-40 percent boost in the next few months. According to the CEOs of both utilities, the price hikes will make up for the billions of dollars the companies lose through defaulted payments. Money expected from increased prices would only be a drop in the bucket of Gazprom's $5 billion domestic debt. State-run industries are often only mildly chastised for missing electricity payments, and independent businesses have taken the cue and also ignore their payments without rebuke. Gazprom officials estimate that only about 20 percent of their customers pay for their gas in cash. Both Gazprom and UES are partially state-owned but increasingly state controlled, which means that the government can force Gazprom to supply UES with free gas. This puts more of a drain on Gazprom, which is, however, still required to pay taxes on the income that never comes.

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