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Russia's Weather Extremes Push Electricity Grid To Limits

A man sits on the ground while a house burns due to severe heat, outside the western Russian town of Vyksa in July.
MOSCOW -- Russia's harsh winter followed by the current summer heat wave has led to a spike in demand for electricity that has pushed up prices and caused delays in repairs, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Electricity consumption in the first eight months of 2010 has been about 25 percent higher than the previous year.

Mikhail Rastrigin, an analyst with the Moscow-based VTB Bank, says that the surge in demand has taken a heavy toll on Russia's energy infrastructure.

While Rastrigin says there have only been a few cases of generators or whole grids failing, there is concern about how the electric companies will maintain the taxed system.

"In July and [this month] many electricity companies were forced to postpone scheduled repairs in order to support the operation of the electricity grid as a whole," Rastrigin says. "Now either no repairs will be carried out at all or they will be only partially completed."

Aleksandr Kornilov, an electricity-sector analyst with Alfa Bank, says the increase in demand has made electricity prices skyrocket.

"Since the beginning of the year, the price for electricity in the European part of Russia has grown 26 percent compared to the same period last year and 13 percent in Siberia," Kornilov says. "In July, the price in the European energy zone was 34 percent higher and in Siberia it was 37 percent higher."

But Kornilov adds that it needs to be pointed out that "the sharp rise in prices is partly due to the low 'base' -- in 2009, the market price of electricity prices fell sharply."

Kornilov adds that he predicts prices will fall somewhat in September-October.

But despite that lowering of prices, he says the overall average price for electricity in 2010 in the European part of Russia will be 20-25 percent higher and in Siberia it will be 13-15 percent higher than in 2009.