Photo via Time.

Energy Minister Juan José Aranguren confirmed yesterday that the first increases in gas and electricity bills for this year are on their way. “On February first electricity increases will be instated, while those for gas will take place on April first,” he said. The minister didn’t specify how high they will be, but mentioned that the numbers should be announced to the public in approximately 10 days.

What we do know is that this won’t be the only increases that will take place this year, and is part of the Government’s plan to gradually “update” rates until energy subsidies are completely removed in 2019, the year President Mauricio Macri’s term ends. According to the Energy Ministry, there will be four increases per year.

Last year, after jumping through more than a few legal hoops, the Government implemented the first increases in gas prices for homes in October. Most residential users saw a 203 percent increase in their bills, while a 500 percent cap was instituted for small and medium-sized businesses.

As for electricity increases, they weren’t as steep as those seen in gas, but were still significant. It is estimated that this year bills will increase between 22 and 70 percent in the City and Province of Buenos Aires. Córdoba, on its end, will see an increase of almost 30 percent.

Moreover, Aranguren went on to defend the “hard choices” his administration has had to make and assured the public that so far, there have been fewer power outages this summer when compared to the same period in 2015, right after the former administration left office.

“There were outages in December, but with less frequency than December 2015. We’ve had 40 percent less outages and their duration decreased by 35 percent,” he said.

Power outages have been a major issue in larger cities in Argentina over the years. The power grid is outdated, inefficient and is incapable of meeting the demand that spikes during summer months when AC use increases. Being stuck in the heat without AC is bad, but cuts in electricity have more serious ramifications: people, and especially seniors who depend on elevators can be virtually stuck in their apartments without being able to use refrigerators, air conditioning, or light. When power is down for hours or days the pumps required to bring water into apartments also fail – leaving people without running water in their kitchens and bathrooms.

In fact, the situation got to a point where the two large electricity service providers, Edesur and Edenor, created a website so users could check what areas in the City of Buenos Aires had power and which didn’t, as well as an estimate of the number of people who didn’t.