Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Energy Prices: Discussion

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I thank the witnesses for their statements. I missed the first couple of speakers and apologise if I cover similar ground. I return to the hardship fund, which my colleagues have had questions on. Mr. Fenlon points to the mitigation measures which are in place for vulnerable customers such as the €3 million hardship fund but separately, he mentions that within the broader regulatory framework, the generation and supply aspects of the ESB must be kept separate. Does that same regulatory separation apply in terms of profits? To be clear, in the first half of this year ESB had a profit of €679 million. I join my colleagues in questioning whether there is a regulatory obstacle to it but after today's contributions and the scepticism around the €3 million figure compared to the broader profits, will Electric Ireland now consider increasing that figure of €3 million?

In July, it was announced that the standing charge would increase by 11.35%. My colleague Senator Higgins had exchanges with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities last week and was told that the basis for the standing charge was a socialisation cost and that the regulator stated that where homes are connected to the network, there are costs associated with providing those network services to those customers that must be recovered. Some of those costs exist even when the customers use very little electricity such as in a holiday home or because they have upgraded their home to A-rated status or whatever else. Perhaps some use solar or photovoltaic, PV, power for their electricity during the day but still require electricity at peak times. There is a basis for having a standing charge. It is a socialisation cost, which ensures that everybody pays their way and that customers who can afford to invest in upgrading their homes are not being subsidised by customers who cannot afford to do so. The increase to the standing charge on your customers' bills does not differentiate nor socialise costs. Disadvantaged households are facing the same increase. What is the basis for the increase in the standing charge, in particular with regard to how the regulator describes what such charges should be used for?


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