Unpaid Greek Utility Bills Soar

Greeks line up to pay bills at a state electricity office

ATHENS – So many Greeks crippled by austerity measures haven’t been able to pay even their electric bills that the rate is growing at 30 percent a year and is 1.7 billion euros, about $2.14 billion.

The Public Power Corporation said it’s heading for a financial blackout and can’t pay its own bills after the arrears it’s owed from customers is headed toward 2 billion euros, from 1.3 billion euros at the end of July, 2013.

More than half of that amount, or 960 million euros, concerns household bills. Some 430 million is owed by high-voltage consumers and big business, with 180 million owed by state enterprises who aren’t paying the government.

PPC is unable to fulfill its own obligations to suppliers, power grid operator ADMIE and electricity market operator LAGIE. This means that the liquidity problem has been passed on to the whole power market chain.

The government exacerbated the problem three years ago when it slipped big property tax increases into the utility bills under the threat of having the power shut off for non-payment but pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings demanded by international lenders have left many Greeks unable to pay despite any threats.