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Switch lights off, burn candles

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Switch all lights and electrical appliances off on Sunday, 21 December, the anonymous authors of a protest against power producer ČEZ ask Czechs.

They are sending out mass emails, in which ČEZ director Martin Roman smiles under a notice saying: “We are looking forward to your money in 2009”. The entire email comes in the form of a New Year’s greeting.

The authors of the protest criticise the rising electricity prices and the high remuneration that the company’s bosses receive. “Let’s go, let them know we are not like sheep that just say baah, bow their heads and keeps on doing what they say,” the authors write in their appeal.

However, ČEZ is not concerned about this type of protest. It is rather the other way round.

“If the appeal was efficient, then we would make money on that,” said Eva Nováková, spokeswoman for ČEZ. “In the Czech Republic, switching appliances off harms the transmission network operator (ČEPS) that is responsible for matching consumption with supply in a given moment and has nothing to do with ČEZ. To offset consumption in the network, ČEPS buys services from electricity producers, including ČEZ,” Nováková said.

ČEPS spokeswoman Jana Jabůrková confirmed the information. “We have to buy from producers the support and system services that are naturally more expensive and ČEZ makes money on them.”

Vladimír Štěpán, analyst with ENA that provides consulting services in the energy sector, said the appeal had more of a moral meaning. “It is just a warning signal. It will have no impact on consumption unless most households take part in the protest,” he added.

This is not the first time that electricity consumers are protesting against high prices. “There have been several such appeals, not just in the Czech Republic, but also in other countries, and it has never met with any major response,” said Nováková. In February this year, for example, a similar event failed owing to a general lack of interest. “Virtually nothing happened, the swings in consumption were negligible,” said Jabůrková.

But still, such protests can be useful, said Štěpán. “At least they provoke a debate on whether electricity really has to be that expensive,” he added.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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