(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Jordan's ongoing energy woes officially began hitting consumers on Sunday as the government raised electricity rates.
The Cabinet decision to amend rates - the second rise in electricity tariffs in less than a year - was related to the ongoing unreliability of Egyptian gas supplies, the Kingdom's main energy source, energy officials said.
The Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC) stressed that those who consume fewer than 600 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month - some 92 per cent of households - will be unaffected by an amended tariff system that is designed to target excessive consumers.
Under the increase, households that consume over 600kWh per month will see their bills rise by 5-10 fils per kWh over the preset limit, according to the amended tariff system, a copy of which was received by The Jordan Times.
Those in the commercial sector that consume fewer than 1,200kWh monthly - some 89 per cent of commercial consumers - will also be exempted from the increase, according to the ERC.
In its decision, the Cabinet exempted the agricultural sector and water pumping stations from the price hikes in order to avoid placing "excess pressure" on citizens.
According to the ERC, ongoing instability in Egyptian gas supplies cost the Kingdom JD1.03 billion in 2011, a figure that is projected to reach JD1.7 billion in 2012 should the disruptions continue.
Multiple cuts in Egyptian gas supplies stretching back to February 2011 have forced the Kingdom's power stations to rely on costlier heavy fuel oil, which in turn has pushed the National Electric Power Company's generation costs to 197 fils per kWh - nearly three times the rate at which the company provides electricity to the general public (73 fils per kWh).
According to officials, the rise in electricity rates comes as part of the government's bid to balance an increasing burden experts say is tipping the Kingdom towards an "energy crisis".
"This mechanism was devised as the fairest way to alleviate the burden government has carried alone for over a year," Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Qutaiba Abu Qura told The Jordan Times.
Officials pledged to continue efforts to ease the Kingdom's reliance on Egyptian gas by exploring alternative energy markets, including the import of liquid gas from Qatar and natural gas from Iraq, in order to avoid future rises in electricity prices.
Despite the renewed push for alternative energy sources, officials admit that it will be "at least two years" before Jordan benefits from any new energy agreement due to infrastructure requirements.
Egyptian gas supplies dipped from 220 million cubic feet per day in 2010 to an average of 80 million cubic feet in 2011 due to a series of acts of sabotage on the Arab Gas Pipeline and have yet to resume fully since the most recent attack in November.
According to industry experts, the unreliability of Egyptian gas has elevated the issue of energy independence from a policy matter to an issue of national security for Jordan, which imports 98 per cent of its energy needs at a cost of nearly one-fifth of its gross domestic product.