The "tariff war" between the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ukrainians over benefits for electricity ended in a partial victory for the government. Despite the protests, the officials decided not to return the benefits, but to pay compensations to those who have increased amounts in payments by the end of the year. People are encouraged to apply for subsidies - the "electric" surcharge for January, for example, averaged 574 UAH. However, many still do not believe in the effectiveness of government assistance.
Kosatka.Media tells what the “war over tariffs” has led to, what solution the authorities of cities that depend on electric heating offer, and where to complain if the subsidy is denied.
Lost the lowest tariff in Ukraine
The decision of the Cabinet of Ministers to establish a uniform tariff for electricity for the population led to the cancellation of almost all benefits for it from January 1, 2021. First of all - for people who used electricity for heating their homes and had a privilege for the first 3000 kW (at a rate of 90 kopecks / kW).
Also, residents of cities in the 30-km zones of the NPP (Nikopol, Marhanets, Enerhodar, Netyshyn, Yuzhnoukrainsk, Ostroh and others) lost an additional benefit of 30% of the tariff. Thanks to her (along with other benefits), they had a record low cost of a kilowatt for many years - up to 32 kopecks at night:
- 90 kopecks/kW (subject to heating by electricity);
- + 30% discount for a 30-kilometer zone (up to 63 kopecks/kW);
- + 50% discount when using a two-zone meter (as a result, up to 31.5 kopecks/kW from 11 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.).
According to a survey conducted in the Nikopol uncensored Facebook group, approximately 3 out of 4 users previously used a reduced rate for 3000 kW, and 3 out of 5 respondents have a two-zone meter.
Results of a survey among residents of Nikopol. Photo: Facebook/Nikopol uncensored
People were adjusting to a favourable tariff and shifting the work of energy-consuming appliances (electric boilers, washing machines, multicooker) to night hours. After the abolition of benefits, they only had a discount from multi-zone meters, which means an increase in the amounts in payments by 2-3 times.
“I have a small apartment - 44.9 m2, insulated, everything is glazed with triple double-glazed windows, there are two doors at the entrance, there is a two-zone meter, and I myself save as much as I can. In December, I used 851 kW, at the old preferential tariff they counted 594 UAH. And if you recalculate it for a new one without benefits, then it will be UAH 1905, ”a resident of Manganets Iryna Kushnir told Kosatka.Media in mid-January.
Why people don't believe in subsidies
The cancellation of benefits has caused massive outrage among the population. Therefore, the Cabinet of Ministers had to reconsider its decision very quickly.
However, officials did not return the benefits that everyone hoped for. The government went through "direct compensation", allocating UAH 1.4 billion for families with electric heating and orphanages. This amount is calculated until the end of 2021 (as of mid-February, UAH 322 million has already been used). There is no talk of any serious steps to return the "30-kilometer" benefit or benefit for the first 3000 kW for owners of electric boilers.
Officials advise people to apply for subsidies. However, as Kosatka.Media was convinced, many do not believe in the reliability of such assistance.
“Over the past year or two, the amount of subsidies has been halved. If I previously received UAH 2,400, now I get somewhere around UAH 1,300. And so on throughout Ukraine. All utilities are becoming more expensive. Coldwater, for example, in Manganese costs 32.62 kopecks per cubic meter. And after the rise in electricity prices, payments will grow by almost 2.5-3 times. Previously, we paid about UAH 1200 for a one-room apartment, and now it will be up to UAH 3000,” said Valentyna Ryabtseva, head of the Marhanets public organization Voice of the People, to Kosatka.Media.
People also say that they are afraid of the difficulty of obtaining subsidies: in recent years, the number of checks whether a person really has enough reason to receive money has increased. Because of this, many do not even try to seek help.
“Every three months we need to provide information on the composition of the family. What is it for? Everyone has already made ID-passports, everything is electronic. Well, go through your computer and look. The queues in social security are terrible, and if you are still working, you will never get there at all. I was so disappointed in their benefits, I don’t believe anyone,” explained Iryna Kushnir.
Also, residents of Marhanets recall that a few years ago they had an unpleasant experience with subsidies: social security wrote off unused funds, and communal services subsequently counted debts for the same amount. This further discredited the effectiveness of subsidies.
“In 2018, before the new year, I had a balance of unused funds for electric heating of UAH 1700. Social protection took these funds, and the power grid, seeing that this money was taken, counted the debt for another 1,700 UAH from above! This happened since the power grid did not submit information to social protection in time, that we switched to electric heating. Then a lot of people got hit like that. The situation was the same with the local water utility - the account had a subsidy of UAH 1,500, they were written off, and then the bill came that I owed UAH 1,500. After that, I don’t want their subsidies! And other people don't want to,” said Kushnir.
(It is important to mention – the problems described by Iryna Kushnir on the write-off of unused funds occurred even before subsidies in Ukraine were monetized and began to be given in “real” money).
What is really happening with subsidies?
The amounts budgeted for subsidies have indeed decreased significantly in recent years. For example, the 2019 budget had UAH 55 billion, and the 2021 budget - UAH 36.6 billion. The state simultaneously reduced the amount of individual payments and narrowed the circle of people who can apply for help.
However, the Ministry of Social Policy assures that those who really need help will receive it. Therefore, people who, after the abolition of benefits, will increase the amount in payments, should not despair, but apply for a subsidy.
“73% of subsidies, which is 3 million households, pay for utilities no more than 10% of their income. The average subsidy in January 2021 was UAH 2,200. If we take 1.8 million beneficiaries and 3 million subsidies, we will see that this is almost 5 million people. That is, a third of Ukrainian households are supported by the state in the face of rising tariffs, ”said Minister of Social Policy Maryna Lazebna on February 15.
She added that the state was already paying extra for those who have lost the preferential payment for electricity.
“The compensation mechanism has started working. We sent funds to the universal service providers on February 12. UAH 1.4 billion was allocated for this program. The application became UAH 322 million for 571 thousand consumers. The average compensation was UAH 574,” Lazebna added.
How to apply for a subsidy and appeal against the refusal
The amount of subsidy is still calculated according to the formula: the size of the utility bill minus the share of the payment that the household must pay for utility services.
The amount of the mandatory payment share for each family is determined individually and depends on the average monthly income per person.
“This approach ensures the principle of equity - the lower the household income, the lower the mandatory part of the payment for housing and utility services. In the event of an increase in prices and tariffs for housing and communal services, the mandatory share of the payment does not change, and the amount of the subsidy increases. Thus, the increase in tariffs does not affect the family budgets of the recipients of subsidies,” the Ministry of Social Policy explained to Kosatka.Media.
To receive a subsidy, a citizen must, with a passport (or another identity document), apply to the local executive body or the centre for the provision of administrative services and write an application for the appointment of a subsidy and a declaration of income and expenses of his family members. These same officials can explain how to fill out the application and declaration.
Also, the application and the declaration can be sent by mail or submitted via the Internet in electronic form (through the website of the Ministry of Social Policy, integrated information systems of executive authorities and local government bodies, or the Unified State Web Portal of Electronic Services).
Other information necessary for the appointment of subsidies (on the income of individuals; on the payment of ERUs, on the people registered in the apartment, on the amount of tariffs and payments for housing and communal services, etc.), the social security authorities receive automatically.
Subsequently, the social security body will report on the results of the consideration of the application. If the subsidy is denied, the person must be personally signed with a decision on this. It must indicate the reason for the refusal, as well as describe the order in which it can be appealed.
You can appeal both the fact of the refusal and the amount of assistance.
“The applicant has the right to appeal to the commission created by district, district in Kyiv state administrations, executive bodies of city, district in cities (if they are formed) councils, or in court the decision of the structural unit on social security issues on the amount of the assigned subsidy or on the refusal to assign housing subsidies, as well as a decision on submitting documents for consideration by the commission,” the Ministry said.
How much did the transition to the electric heating cost
A feature of Nikopol and Manganets, in addition to being located in the 30-kilometre zones of the NPP, is the absence of centralized heating there. It was “cut off” back in 2016-2017 because then it was much cheaper to heat apartments and social facilities with electricity and alternative energy.
By the way, then the massive transition of the population to electric heating created significant problems for Dniprooblenergo – up to emergencies.
“We went through a very difficult experience when cities, without waiting for the necessary modernization, rushed to abandon centralized heating at one point. The load during peak hours on 6/10 kV networks in Nikopol increased by 150-160%, Manganets – by 200%, Pokrov – by 35%. And the first winter after the transition, the city grids simply refused, they had to be patched literally in an emergency mode," told Kosatka.Media in the press service of DTEK Dnipro Grids.
In Nikopol, a global problem was the shortage of available capacity at the Nikopol-Horod substation, which supplied the central part of the city. In the winter of 2016-2017, during severe frosts, it was necessary to turn off part of the consumers, otherwise, the substation equipment could fail and the consumers would have been left without electricity and heat for a long time.
“This problem was solved through the construction of a new distribution point “Holovko” on Svitla Street, which was built from scratch in 2017. He unloaded the Nikopol-Horod substation, redirecting the 10 MW load to another Stroymash substation -150/10/6. In addition to increasing reliability and safety, this has created an additional resource for power supply in the apartments of the multi-storey centre of Nikopol. The project cost the company UAH 50 million,” a source in Dnipro Power Grids said.
Also, the transition to electric heating flew into a pretty penny and the population. For a two-room apartment, for example, it cost about UAH 15 thousand (project preparation - UAH 4,000, batteries, wiring, work - about UAH 9,000, two-zone meter - UAH 2,000).
“The initiator of the transition of Manganets to electric heating was the former mayor Olena Zhatko. The centralized was expensive and it was still cold in the apartments. She promised that those who do not have debts for the heating network will be given a subsidy for the installation of individual heating - 7-9-11 thousand UAH for 1-2-3-room apartments. Then it was done! Such queues! They also nagged to find a reason for the refusal. For example, they refused me, because I was undergoing treatment then and could not pay off my debts. About a quarter of the residents were financed, while others did it for their own money, got into loans,” Iryna Kushnir told about that period.
She added that despite the attempts of power engineers to keep the supply of electricity to consumers "afloat", during severe frosts in mid-January 2021, due to an increase in the load on the grid, there were emergency outages in some areas of Manhanets.
It is interesting that in some apartments in cities that at one time abandoned centralized heating, there are simultaneously two heating systems - gas and electric. People installed gas a long time ago, and when they began to allow electricity, they installed it too. In 2017, it was profitable - if the monthly payment for gas was 2000 UAH, then heating with electricity cost 600 UAH.
However, nowadays there is no point in additionally installing gas heating (so that, for example, to warm up with gas during the day and with electricity at the night rate), according to people, it makes no sense - they will now cost about the same.
What do cities expect
As Kosatka.Media was told in the mayor's office of the 120-thousandth Nikopol, now about half of the residents use electric heating, the rest have gas heating.
“Among the low-income strata of the population and pensioners, almost everyone uses electric heating,” said Volodymyr Baidukov, an adviser to the mayor.
The situation is similar in other cities in 30-kilometre zones from the nuclear power plant.
In the city hall of Marhanets, the return of benefits is the best solution, since the level of local salaries does not allow residents to fully pay for electricity on their own. Besides, there is no at least a theoretical possibility to return to centralized heating.
“The heating network was declared bankrupt and sold by the liquidator based on a court decision. Therefore, we have nothing to restore," explained in the service of capital construction and housing and communal services of Manhanets.
City leaders in 30 km zones note that the state should not have deprived people of the 30 per cent benefit. In this, they refer to the Constitution, according to which "it is not allowed to narrow the content and scope of existing rights and freedoms"
The mayors of these cities are collecting signatures on a petition on the president's website asking for the return of electricity benefits. At the same time, Nikopol City Council began the creation of the "Association of Communities of the NPP Conservation Areas". On its behalf, residents will submit appeals to the Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada.
“It will be an all-Ukrainian organization that will help unite efforts to return the electricity benefits that we lost. According to preliminary estimates, it may include about 100 communities. We are planning to hold a constituent assembly in March," the Nikopol City Hall told Kosatka.Media unofficially.
To recap, the Cabinet of Ministers cancelled the privilege for the first 100 kW per month (Resolution No.1325). The cancellation of preferential electricity tariffs has affected almost all categories of consumers. In particular, owners of houses with electric heating, large families and family-type orphanages, residents of cities in 30-kilometre zones near the nuclear power plant were affected.
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