Beijingers to have a say on power price hikes
The public will have a chance to have their say on planned electricity price hikes in Beijing at a public hearing on September 2.
The hearing, organized by the Beijing Municipal Development and Reform Commission, will involve 30 representatives from all walks of life, with a further 20 places available for observers.
The planned power price hike follows a 30 per cent rise in water rates, introduced earlier this month.
But further details about the proposed power price hikes are currently not available.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued a notice in mid-June which stipulates that the average electricity price in Beijing, including charges for industrial and domestic uses, will be raised by 3.4 cents (0.4 US cents) per kilowatt hour.
Since the power rate adjustment has a direct impact on people's daily lives, a public hearing is needed before the price hikes are implemented, said a spokesman for the commission.
But some local residents cast doubts on whether the price adjustment will encourage much needed market-orientated reform in the electricity sector.
The municipal commission justified the price hike plan as a necessary step to address nagging problems concerning electricity supply.
The money raised from the price hikes will mainly be used to improve the city's grid and cover the increasing costs of thermal power stations resulted from higher coal prices, said the commission.
The city has invested a total of 1.26 billion yuan (US$152 million) to upgrade its current grid during the past six months.
And a further 42 billion yuan (US$5 billion) will be ploughed into grid construction and renovation over the next five years, according to the Beijing Electric Power Corporation, the city's major power supplier.
With a population of more than 13 million, Beijing is faced with power and water shortages as its gross domestic product (GDP) has maintained double-digit growth in recent years.
Facing droughts since 1999, the city had to raise its domestic water rates from 2.9 yuan (35 US cents) per ton to 3.7 yuan (48 US cents) per ton starting on August 1.
The city's power consumption topped 25.8 billion kilowatt hours between January and July, rising 14 per cent year-on-year.
Experts agree that higher electricity prices will raise all users' awareness of energy saving, but they suggest the pricing authorities give full consideration to low-income groups and provide them with subsidies.
After the public hearing, the proposed increase still needs to obtain the approval of the municipal government and the NDRC before taking effect, said the municipal commission.