The role and responsibilities of the regulatory authority for electricity, gas and water in Italy (AEEGSI) in the process of switching from regulated prices to a free market and various measures against late payment of electricity bills were among the main topics of the workshop held in EWRC as a joint initiative of the two regulators. The main event objective was learning from AEEGSI experience in the resolution of key regulatory issues encountered during the process of electricity market liberalisation. The workshop was attended by members of the Commission, experts from the Italian and Bulgarian regulators and the Executive Director of BEH EAD Petyo Ivanov.
The main stages in the process of switching to non-regulated prices in Italy were outlined in a presentation given by the Director of AEEGSI’s Electricity Division Mrs Clara Poletti, who focused on the liberalisation of the electricity market and the role of the single buyer. The changed role of the single buyer and the conditions established by the regulator for the transition of household customers to the free electricity market by changing their electricity supplier were highlighted. The existing "Protection Regime" for household customers and small and medium enterprises, which have not chosen a new supplier, were examined thoroughly. In these cases, prices are determined by the national regulator at the end of each quarter and include the single buyer’s costs of purchasing electricity from the market, and the expenditure of the distribution operator, including losses and expenses for balancing. The Protection Regime will go on until 2019, when liberalisation of the electricity market in Italy will be fully completed. The expectations of the AEEGSI are that this will result in higher competition, lower electricity prices and improved quality of services. The Italian regulator also discusses measures to encourage consumers to choose a new supplier by providing various tools for comparing price offers, improving the procedure of switching suppliers and increasing the transparency of invoices. The necessity of carrying out regulatory checks on supply companies and organizing information campaigns about the free market opportunities was mentioned in relation to potential consumer protection measures.
During the second workshop panel Simone Spalletta, Retail markets expert, presented the experience of the Italian regulator in solving problems emerging from supplier switching due to late payment of electricity bills. He indicated that introducing a requirement for previous suppliers to provide information on customers’ past electricity cut offs due to unpaid bills could be a possible regulatory measure.
Another approach for dealing with problematic payments is that consumers with an unpaid bill to the previous supplier pay a deposit equal to a monthly electricity bill. Simone Spalletta informed that the Italian energy regulator is considering the idea of stimulating loyal customers by giving them bonuses upon signing a contract with their new electricity or natural gas supplier. Focusing оn the policy of supporting vulnerable consumers in Italy, Simone Spalletta clarified that their bills are reduced by 56-138 euros on an annual basis. The exact amount is determined based on the number of members in the household, persons with serious illnesses, using (medical) equipment at home, etc.
After the presentations, the workshop participants held discussions on issues related to the effort of the two regulators to achieve the EU targets for renewable energy sources share in the energy mix, enhanced control of electricity supply companies, optimization of regulatory compensation mechanisms for vulnerable consumers, etc.