(MENAFN - Jordan Times) The government pledged on Saturday to continue pursuing alternative energy sources as it unveiled a new electricity tariff that will leave some customers paying over 500 fils per kilowatt-hour (kWh).
The new tariff, which raises electricity bills by an average of 9 per cent and goes into effect this month, relies on a progressive pricing scale, dividing households into 12 brackets in what officials say is an attempt to ensure that those who use the most electricity carry the bulk of the increased costs.
Under the new pricing system, published in the Official Gazette last week, consumers who use 600kWh or less of electricity per month - some 89 per cent of households in the Kingdom - will be charged the same 72-113 fils per kWh rates that was in effect previously.
Those who consume more electricity will pay gradually higher rates, rising to 548 fils per kWh for households that consume over 3,000kWh, over three times the previous maximum rate of 174 fils, according to the Electricity Regulatory Commission.
The government said the price increase was due in large part to the ongoing unreliability of Egyptian gas, which cost the Kingdom an additional JD1.03 billion in 2011 and is projected to incur JD1.7 billion in costs in 2012.
Multiple cuts in natural gas supplies due to acts of sabotage over the past year forced the Kingdom's power plants onto costlier heavy oil and diesel reserves, pushing the National Electric Power Company's electricity generation costs to 197 fils per kWh.
The rise in tariffs comes amidst growing doubts in Amman over Cairo's ability to secure supply lines, with Egypt yet to resume pumping to Jordan after a November blast that marked the 10th act of sabotage on the Arab Gas Pipeline in less than a year.
Egyptian gas supplies dipped from 220 million cubic feet per day in 2010 to an average of 80 million cubic feet in 2011, well short of the 240 million cubic feet stipulated in a 16-year natural gas agreement between Cairo and Amman and the 370 million cubic feet required by Jordan's power plants to sustain electricity generation.
Pro-reform activists zeroed in on rising electricity prices in protests across the Kingdom on Friday, urging the government to revert to the previous tariff.
Officials stressed that the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources is exploring a range of energy alternatives, including the import of liquid gas from Qatar and natural gas from Iraq, in order to avoid any future increases in electricity prices.
Industry experts say the ongoing Egyptian gas crisis has elevated energy independence from a policy matter to an issue of national security for Jordan, which imports 98 per cent of its energy at a cost of over one-fifth of the gross domestic product.