Electricity pylons sunset sky

TD asks Government and regulator to address high energy prices

Fianna Fáil TD also criticised the Government's approach to encourage people to improve their home energy efficiency

The Government and the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) need to take immediate action to address the alarmingly high electricity prices Irish customers pay in comparison with our European counterparts according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Energy Michael Moynihan TD.

Deputy Moynihan said: “Latest Eurostat figures show that Ireland has the third highest electricity prices in Europe. Irish households were also hit with one of the largest electricity price increases in Europe in 2014. The cost of electricity increased by 5.4% between 2013 and 2014, which is nearly twice the EU average of 2.9%.

“The figures are compounded by the fact that when you exclude taxes and charges, the real cost of electricity is higher in Ireland than in any other EU country. This is an appalling vista for hard pressed working families who are struggling to meet their weekly financial commitments. Some 26% of Irish electricity costs are down to Government taxes and levies which compares with just 5% in the UK.

Electricity prices in Ireland are still at an excessive level, despite the big decreases in global oil prices. Gas and electricity prices have soared since this Government came to power.

“The role of the CER is to protect the interests of consumers. However I have seen zero evidence of this over the past number of years.

“I have received no credible reason for energy prices not decreasing in Ireland in line with lower wholesale costs. The CER is not performing an essential role in protecting hard-pressed consumers.

“The CER maintains its hands are tied and it cannot directly involve itself in overseeing the prices being charged to consumers. Fianna Fáil is calling for the mandate of the CER to be changed so it can take a more proactive role in ensuring consumers receive value for money.

“Although the CER is an independent statutory body, it cannot be allowed to operate in isolation. Minister Alex White must ensure it carries out its function properly or else extend the body’s remit so it can protect consumers.”

“Entirely short sighted and counterproductive”

Deputy Moynihan also described the Government’s approach to encouraging people to improve the energy efficiency of their homes as “entirely short sighted and counterproductive”.

New figures supplied to Fianna Fáil show that less than €10 million in grants was provided under the Better Homes Scheme administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland in 2014. This figure has been reduced since 2011, when €57.6 million was made available.

110,000 people took part during the first three years that the scheme was available. There has been a collapse in the number of households benefiting from the grant scheme after two separate rounds of cuts to the grants paid for activities such as wall insulation and upgrade of boilers.

Encouraging home insulation is effective as a means of reducing energy bills and Ireland’s dependence on imported fossil fuels but also as a means of supporting employment.

Deputy Moynihan commented: “In fact Ireland was developing a strong domestic industry with export potential when the government effectively pulled the rug from under the sector by slashing the available grants.

“Given the collapse in people availing of the grants, I have no doubt there has been a loss of jobs within the sector. It will also make it more difficult for Ireland to meet our retrofit and energy reduction target.

“This has been a badly thought out measure. It is very much in the interests of the State to encourage as wide a take up of insulation as possible. The recent review of the scheme is an admission that the cuts made to grants were very short sighted. The Minister needs to actively market the scheme and ensure that adequate funding is in place to maximise potential,” concluded Deputy Moynihan.

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