Bill Comes in Threes

Bill Comes in Threes


In January, the residents of Krasnoyarsk, a major industrialized city in south-central Siberia, started receiving heating bills. The figures they saw there outraged many. When people pay 'as you go,' heat is increasingly becoming a luxury item. The confused authorities and heat supply companies offered to pay ‘as much as one can,’ saying the rest could be paid afterwards.

Recently, has written that last year, Krasnoyarsk switched to a new system of charging fees for heat consumption. Previously, the 1/12 scheme was used. In other words, all the costs of heat production were "spread out" over the whole year, and people paid for heating even in the summer but in equal shares. In doing so, the bills for rent were relatively stable. Then the regional heating companies lobbied for a transition to a 1/9 formula. That is, the consumer pays during the heating season. Moreover, the sum for the services is based on the air temperature. At first glance, the scheme seems logical and fair. If a company delivers services one has to pay for them. If they are not delivered, one does not pay. However, the point that in Russia, and especially in Siberia, housing and utility companies cannot be totally commercial a priori. So, their owners should not forget about the important social responsibility they have. However, this moment was put on the back burner.

Then the first immersion of Krasnoyarsk in the new reality started. In December and January, there were 40 °C frosts in the area. They ended only a few days ago. Boiler houses and heat stations did their work well. At the beginning of February, the first bills started being received. Social networks were floated with unflattering remarks about the authorities. The situation is typical. The services for heat cost 1,000 rubles ($13.48) before. Now, it has gone up to about 4,000 ($53.92.) With all the other columns in a bill, someone got a ten-digit sum for a two-room flat, for example. If you are a working owner of the flat, this is bearable. Although, if the flat is bought on mortgage and the payment is already 15,000-20,000 rubles ($202.2-269.6,) this amount is likely to cause some irritation. And if a person is a pensioner?

"People whose payments are compensated for according to the social norm of floor space and the norm of heat consumption are likely to be particularly astonished. Let’s take, for example, a widow of a World War II veteran who lives in her own flat. She has received a payment for heating of 7,200 rubles ($97.06.) She is entitled to a full-scale compensation of the cost of the housing and utility services but within the established limits. Now, she will be compensated 4,000 rubles ($53.92), and 3,200 rubles ($43.14) she will have to pay herself. It will be very difficult to explain to this person that this is equivalent of 100% compensation," Roman Kazakov, the head of the National Control of Housing and Public Utilities public movement, said in an interview with

People do not understand why two neighboring identical houses have significantly different additional charges even though they are powered by the same CHP plant. Siberian Generating Company, the regional monopoly, made an attempt to explain this situation. The new pattern and the low temperature that resulted in higher coal consumption, poor metering in some houses and the failure to submit reports from management companies on time were affecting the situation. The utility mercifully allowed the residents to pay the sums of money as they could.

"January was cold. So, residents can take advantage of installment payment. If February's payment is also high, residents can pay both bills in installments until the end of the year. Amounts due for payment can differ but no penalties will be imposed on them," the press service of the Siberian Generating Company said.

"If the accrued fee has increased by more than 25%, people have the right to installments under federal law. This is a requirement for the resource supply companies, not a matter of their choice. Those who fail to pay in installments will be subject to harsh response measures from the supervisory authorities," said Evgeny Gavrilov, Deputy Minister of Industry, Energy, Housing and Utilities of the Krasnoyarsk territory.

However, the residents do not get an answer to the main question: why do they have to give a substantial part of their income to Andrey Melnichenko? He is a well-known Russian businessman who owns the Siberian Generating Company and SUEK. In other words, he is a billionaire who produces coal himself at his strip mines, sells it himself to his cogeneration plants, and charges the city of a million of people for burning it.

"In the interests of the monopoly, the regional authorities have created a problem for the whole city. They are pretending that everything is good. The regional government exists to weigh up the risks, to make rational decisions and not to make decisions to please the prevailing sentiments. The problem with redistribution has been solved by making it more transparent and more understandable. At present, to provide a recalculation of the 8 months of the previous year is the only way to avoid a social explosion. There should be a solid overpayment which would substantially offset the current absolutely devilish figures in the bills. In a normal system, the Minister of Housing and Utilities and his Deputy would have written a letter of resignation. However, today, officials will never admit a mistake on their part," said Kazakov.

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