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New bill lowers energy prices and restructures sector

Hungary's Parliament approved at an extraordinary session last week a bill that restructures the country's energy regulator and gives it the power to issue decrees. The government deemed the legislation necessary to cement reductions in utilities prices. It prevents decisions affecting the price cuts from being contested in court, and it limits challenges to decrees issued by the new energy authority to the Constitutional Court. The bill was passed with a vote of 261 yes, eight nays and a single abstention. Hungary's government mandated a 10% reduction in electricity, gas and district heating prices from January 1. The legislation stipulates the restructuring of MEH and the establishment of a legal successor: an independent regulatory body called the Hungarian Energy and Public Works Regulatory Authority that will oversee electricity, gas, district heating, water and waste collection services. The new authority answers only to the law and is accountable only to Parliament. The head of the new office is appointed by the prime minister for a period of seven years. The chairman may serve two terms. The chairman may appoint at most five deputies, also with seven-year mandates. The legislation will come into force eight days from its publication.