BLUE FUEL DEBATE: GAS TARIFFS AT FOREFRONT OF PUBLIC DISCUSSION

SOCIETY | 31.05.13 | 16:10

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By GAYANE MKRTCHYAN
ArmeniaNow reporter

Discussions on the expected price hike for gas are incessant on the
highest rostrums of Armenia, as well as courtyards of residential
houses, in public transport, working places and homes. The increase of
gas tariff feels like stab in the back to the impoverished, unemployed
or those surviving on low wages and could take a long time, if ever,
for them to recover.

The public discussion to reconsider the tariffs for gas and electricity
failed this week at the Public Services Regulatory Commission, after
which "Let's prevent the gas price hike" civil initiative made an
appeal to be more united in an attempt to "prevent monopolies from
robbing people".

The discussion got postponed because there was no room in the hall for
the numerous organizations and citizens registered for participation,
this circumstance sparking discord and quarrels. Robert Nazaryan,
chairing the commission, announced that the discussion would continue
another time, without reporters' presence.

The Union of Manufacturers and Employers of Armenia, concerned
over the issue, is planning to submit a proposal to the government,
suggesting that discussion opportunities are created for also the
business circles of Armenia.

"It is about subsidies, compensations, using alternative energy
sources. Most importantly, those entities which are ready to install
energy saving systems should be provided with affordable financial
means so that they can do the installation rapidly. Otherwise our
compatibility and the achievements we have finally made recently
in terms of industrial policy would appear in a rather questionable
condition," Arsen Ghazaryan, head of the Union, told RFE/RL.

Along with the criticism against Russia because of the increase of
gas tariffs, constructive suggestions are made today on how to enable
Armenia, having no energy carriers, to secure its own electric power.

Well-known businessman Khachatur Sukiasyan wrote on his Facebook page
that using alternative energy carriers should become the imperative
for Armenia for the coming years, and energy productivity has to
become one of the country's top issues of economic strategy.

"The government has to start the development of the project from energy
audit in the country, meaning, it has to collect accurate data on the
volumes of energy resources used, energy efficiency indexes, etc. I
am certain that such an audit would reveal that Armenia is among
the world's 'richest' countries, if it allows energy to be used so
generously in households and various spheres of economy. The world's
leading experience should help us understand how we can reduce our
dependency on imported energy carriers," says Sukiasyan.

He suggests that smart illumination systems be installed with
contemporary energy saving light bulbs; energy saving means be
applied at multi-story and administrative buildings, energy saving
construction, and even painting, technologies be applied when building
walls, ceilings; build "passive houses" - energy saving houses,
where in winter the air temperature is maintained at a certain level
without heaters and no air-conditioners in summer, plus a switch to
using solar energy.

Armenia's National Security Council Secretary Artur Baghdasaryan,
however, suggests inquiring into the gas prices in other countries
and see that Armenia, in this case, is in a much better condition
than many other states.

"Over the past five years gas tariffs have gone up in many countries,
unlike Armenia. We have to think deeper about strengthening our economy
so that such price hikes do not have a tangible impact," he says.