In Argentina there are 30 types of tariffs for gas and the increases would reach 180%

In Argentina there are 30 types of tariffs for gas and the increases would reach 180%
In Argentina there are 30 types of tariffs for gas and the increases would reach 180%

Although winter has not yet started, homes are preparing for the cold months. The amount that they will allocate to the gas bills can have up to 30 variations: it will depend on the income of each family group, the city in which they live and their level of consumption. Due to the removal of subsidies and segmentation, bills will increase 180% compared to last winter for the 2.7 million customers who will lose state subsidies.

The Government divided public service customers into three categories: high income (N1), low income (N2) and medium income (N3). For the former, the rise in gas will be 180%, for those with fewer resources it will reach 50%, and for the “media” it will be 100%. Each ticket will be different depending on how each client was in the segmentation.

But, besides that, there is another complexity. Argentina heavily subsidizes Patagonian cities, because its gas consumption is much higher than the national average. It is because it has low temperatures for a greater number of days than Buenos Aires, for example. In this way, a home in Santa Cruz or Tierra del Fuego can demand up to 7 times more gas than Buenos Aires, and still pay less than in the country’s capital.

Patagonian clients are protected by a regime called “cold zones”. In 2021, non-Patagonian cities were added to this mechanism. They are located in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Córdoba, Mendoza, San Juan, Salta, and San Luis. It is assumed that they are urban conglomerates with colder than average. And the distributors of those places must make an additional discount, subsidized by the State.

“When it was sanctioned, the gas bills were so low that nobody noticed. But now, that the amounts have been adjusted, the distributors and customers are going to begin to feel the weight of these discounts,” says an industry executive. “The extension of the cold zone law to places like Córdoba is nonsense. This extension must be repealed. There are already places where there is no gas that also ask for benefits because they consume a lot of light. Everything is unbalanced ”, they maintain at the Alem Foundation, an energetic space within radicalism, which is within Together for Change.

40% of households connected to the gas network were classified as having “high” income. 36% corresponds to the most backward segment. 24% are in the middle classes out of a standard of 6.8 million customers, according to government data. Each of these customers will pay differently. And that also changes depending on the location: there is a gas price in Buenos Aires, another in the provinces of “cold zones” (such as Santa Cruz, Chubut or Tierra del Fuego) and a third in “extended cold zone”, such as in Rio Cuarto (Cordoba).

To this we must add that there are also different tariff categories, depending on consumption. A Metrogas customer R1 pays a fixed monthly charge of $800. On the other hand, a customer called R3-4 pays $3,600 per month for this concept, that is, almost four and a half times more. By the law of cold zones, an R1 home has a 70% discount in relation to Buenos Aires in the Patagonian cities, and 50% in the extended cold zone zones (which is distributed in towns of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Córdoba, Mendoza, San Juan, Salta and San Luis).

“The segmentation, the place of operation (if it is within the original or expanded cold zone), the amount of consumption. It is almost impossible to find two users who pay the same amount for a gas bill. There are more than 30 different prices”, reflect on a distributor. “It is a tangle”, they add in another company.

In Buenos Aires, each cubic meter of gas is paid between $47 and $58, depending on the amount consumed. The higher the demand for gas, the higher the amount. This is not the case in the Camuzzi Gas Pampeana concession, for example, which covers the interior of Buenos Aires province and La Pampa. The cubic meter consumed in the interior of the Buenos Aires province costs between $43 and $45 (less than in Buenos Aires), while in La Pampa it ranges from $24 to $30.

In Camuzzi Gas del Sur, the company’s other concession, the rate schedule has 10 variations depending on the city, plus another two due to segmentation. That distributor has to issue, at least, tickets with 30 different amounts. A customer who consumes a lot in Tierra del Fuego pays a fixed charge of $2,400 ($1,200 less than in Buenos Aires) and $20 for each cubic meter consumed. In Buenos Aires, that same molecule costs $58.

A client of Ecogas, the distributor for Córdoba, La Rioja and Catamarca, pays for gas somewhat closer to that of Buenos Aires than to Patagonia. But there are some localities that entered the law of “expanded” cold zones. In that case, they have a 50% discount.

Gas distributors were a business in the 1990s. British Gas came to pay US$75 million for a 25% stake in Metrogas, which valued the company at US$300 million. The value of those companies on the stock market fell. The Spanish Naturgy seeks to divest its operations in the country, so far without luck. Camuzzi’s controllers, who also sought investors in the government of Mauricio Macri, have resigned themselves to having to wait to see if they attract foreign interest again.

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