Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 4 October 2022
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action
Energy Prices: Discussion
Bríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I thank Mr. Fenlon. I suppose it was a bit unfair of me to ask him what his political opinion was, but I guess I am using it as an opportunity to talk about something I am very passionate about, which is nationalising the energy sector to deal with both the climate and the cost-of-living crises; I think it would have that double whammy for us all if we did that. In the limited constraints of what Electric Ireland actually does deal with, I want to drill down into how we are going to protect the most vulnerable. The last time we had the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, in, we had a discussion about the definition of vulnerability and we went through that carefully, discussing how there are two sorts of definitions. Of course, there is the financial vulnerability of a huge cohort of people. We can see from the figures how many people are already in arrears, never mind coming into the winter and the higher prices. Will Mr. Fenlon outline for us what can be done, beyond this €3 million fund, which is really a pittance compared to the challenge that people are facing. What can be done to protect all of those in vulnerable circumstances? What can Electric Ireland do to alert its customers to the fact that they can register their vulnerability and, therefore, will be guaranteed that they will not be cut off. My understanding of what CRU told us was that the instructions to Electric Ireland or any other company is that if their customers register their vulnerability, they cannot be cut off, never mind during this limited Christmas period.