Experts Come Together in Live TV Debates to Discuss Utility Rates
On October 22, the Espresso TV channel broadcast live debates devoted to one of the most pressing issues in the energy sector and utilities, the pricing policy. The discussion held in a format new to Ukraine was initiated by the DiXi Group Think Tank with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation.
The participants in the TV debates included Oleksii Kucherenko, a member of the NEURC Public Council, Andrii Perevertaiev, a member of the Energy Reform expert coalition, Oleksii Khabatiuk, director of the Environmental Investments Fund, and Andrii Herus, a former NEURC member. The moderator was Espresso TV presenter VasylZyma.
“Since the very beginning, we set it as a target not to impose any opinion on the viewer. On the contrary, we wished to introduce the viewer to the pros and cons to let him shape his own position independently,” said one of the debate organizers, DiXi Group Project Manager Roman Nitsovych.
Over an hour, the experts discussed four blocks of issues related to a raise in utility rates and consequences of such a decision. The audience heard expert opinions, which often were absolutely opposing, and the arguments behind them.
In particular, according to the director of the Environmental Investment Fund, Oleksii Khabatiuk, the existing utility rate system promotes the circulation of shadow cash that feeds corruption in the country. “The key problem lies not in the size of the rates, it is in the existence of different rate groups tailored for different consumer categories. The rates for households are quite low whereas the rates for industries are very high, and this difference is fivefold and even greater. Such a situation makes it possible to resell the cheap energy resources intended for households to consumers of expensive resources. And this opportunity is not overlooked at all. It is a source of huge money,” he pointed out.
However, in the opinion of his opponent, Andrii Herus, a former NEURC member, prior to raising the rates, corruption must be rooted out to ensure that the collected payments are used as intended. “In the corrupt environment, people will not take as normal a raise in utility rates. This should be a two-way process. If proceeds from raised rates only enrich some individuals, people will not accept this,” the expert said.
The debates were accompanied by the screening of scenes filmed by Espresso TV journalists and infographics showed by experts, specifically Oleksii Kucherenko, a member of the NEURC Public Council, and Andreii Perevertaiev, an Energy Reform coalition expert.
The footage of these debates is available for viewing on the YouTube channel “Espresso TV.”
This project was held within the Think Tank Development Initiative implemented by the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) in partnership with the Think Tank Fund (TTF) with the financial support of the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine (SIDA).