Environment, Climate and Communications | Energy providers and energy safeguards for consumers
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent to which he and his Department have identified the reasons given by energy providers for recent price increases to the consumer; the extent to which such reasons are directly attributable to any particular issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The electricity and gas retail markets in Ireland operate within a European Union regulatory regime wherein electricity and gas markets are commercial, liberalised, and competitive. Operating within this overall EU framework, responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets, including the matters raised by your question, is solely a matter for the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), which was assigned responsibility for the regulation of the Irish electricity and gas markets following the enactment of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA), 1999.
In line with long standing policy on deregulating price setting, CRU ended its regulation of retail prices in the electricity market in 2011, and in the gas market in 2014. Price setting by electricity suppliers is a commercial and operational matter for the companies concerned. Each such company has its own different approach to pricing decisions over time, in accordance with factors such as their overall company strategic direction and developments in their cost base.
The most immediate factor affecting electricity and gas retail prices in Ireland is high international gas prices where we are a price taker. Gas prices have been driven to unprecedentedly high levels by the volatility in the international gas market caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
I have met with the CRU and suppliers on safeguards and practical ways to protect pay-as-you-go customers.
Government is acutely aware of the impact that the recent increases in global energy prices is having on households. This is why a €2.4 billion package of supports was implemented during 2022, and a package of once off measures worth €2.5 billion included in Budget 2023. The Budget package includes a new Electricity Cost Emergency Benefit Scheme through which €550.47 (exclusive of VAT) will be credited to each domestic electricity account in three payments of €183.49 (exclusive of VAT) in each of the following billing periods – November/December 2022, January/February 2023 and March/April 2023. The estimated cost of this scheme is €1.211 billion.
Along with the Electricity Cost Emergency Benefit Scheme Budget 2023 also introduced measures including:
- €400 lump sum payment to Fuel Allowance recipients
- €200 lump sum payment for pensioners and people with a disability getting the Living Alone Increase
- €500 cost of living lump sum payment to all families getting Working Family Payment
- double payment of Child Benefit to support all families with children
- €500 cost of living payment for people receiving Carer’s Support Grant will be paid in November
- €500 lump sum cost of living disability support grant will be paid to all people receiving a long term disability payment
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