Set up an independent committee
Utility charges will increase after the presidential election ends in March. The government announced increases in electricity and gas bills starting in the second quarter just a week after pledging to freeze utility charges in the first quarter to contain inflation. The government says the increase was postponed to ease the burden on the public, but most can sense a political motive in the move.
Yoon Suk-yeol, presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), criticized the government and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) on social media for being “bad” with the outright exploitation of public authority to influence elections.
The electricity bill will be increased for the first time since November 2013. It will be difficult for any government to increase electricity costs because this decision affects all citizens. The frost devastated Korea Electric Power (Kepco). The state-owned utility company’s consolidated operating loss reached 1.58 trillion won ($ 1.3 billion) in September as it was unable to raise tariffs despite a spike fuel import prices and the gradual shutdown of nuclear reactors. Kepco’s share price fell 53% under the Moon Jae-in administration. The government decided in January to set tariffs based on fuel prices to increase the predictability and transparency of energy charges. But he banned Kepco from raising fees despite soaring international prices for fear of stoking a public protest. A policy cannot gain the confidence of the public if it is influenced by political motives.
The decision-making process must change to push back political influence. Most advanced countries employ an independent agency to decide energy policies. Energy decisions in the United States are made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Public Utility Commission. The German Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency) for electricity, gas, telecommunications, post and railways and the Energy Regulatory Commission in France are all independent bodies. The president is appointed by the president and the members are formed by the approval and recommendation of parliament. Their independence, neutrality and conditions are guaranteed by law.
Korea also has the Energy Commission under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The chairman and the deputy are appointed by the chairman. But it simply serves as an advisory body. To avoid political quarrels over energy tariffs and the cost of the policy, an independent body should be established.