Thirty-five municipal governments have run up debts with the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) totaling just under 301.5 million pesos (US $15.7 million).
The city of Tepic, Nayarit, is the state-owned utility’s biggest municipal debtor, according to information on the federal government’s transparency website, followed by Cuernavaca, Morelos.
The Tepic government owed the CFE 158.16 million pesos (US $8.24 million) at the end of May, while authorities in Cuernavaca were in arrears 110.5 million pesos (US $5.76 million).
The combined debt of the two municipalities accounts for almost 90% of the total amount owed by the 35 local governments.
México state capital Toluca owes the third highest amount, followed by Chilpancingo, Guerrero; Culiacán, Sinaloa; Mexico City borough Iztapalapa; Chihuahua, Chihuahua; and Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas.
Those cities owe CFE between 8.5 and 1.6 million pesos.
The borough of Miguel Hidalgo in Mexico City and the municipality of Querétaro are included among the 35 CFE debtors but only owe nominal amounts of three and 57 pesos respectively.
High-ranking CFE officials, who spoke to the newspaper El Universal on the condition of anonymity, said that a large part of the debt problem is due to the increase in electricity rates and the arrival of new governments that refuse to recognize power bills left by their predecessors, especially if they were of a different political party.
The officials said that electricity rates increased by 7.4% last year and that tariffs have continued to go up this year.
One CFE bureaucrat lamented that the practice of not paying power bills has become commonplace among domestic customers, businesses and both municipal and state governments, costing the utility billions of pesos in revenue.
The official said that the utility is also losing 60 billion pesos (US $3.1 billion) a year due to electricity theft, deficiencies in the national electricity grid, meter anomalies and billing errors.
However, the CFE sources told El Universal that the company is making progress towards more efficient operations.
To reduce electricity and financial losses, new electrical transmission infrastructure is being built, equipment is being modernized and better operational practices are being implemented, they said.
Despite sustaining heavy losses, the CFE agreed in May to cancel 11 billion pesos in debt owed by more than 520,000 customers in Tabasco who joined a “civil resistance” movement against the public utility that began more than two decades ago.
Source: El Universal (sp)