What role the Commission for Energy Regulation plays
Published 22/04/2010 | 05:00
THE Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is run by a troika headed by former Department of Finance official Michael Tutty who works alongside Dermot Nolan and former Viridian official Garrett Blaney.
Set up 10 years ago under the then leadership of Tom Reeves, the regulator has responsibility for ensuring that the once-closed electricity market is opened to competition; something that has been effectively demanded by the European Union.
While the regulator's consultants set electricity and gas prices based on information supplied by the ESB, the regulator has several other important duties as well.
The regulator is responsible for safety inside the dangerous electricity and gas industries as well as the off-shore extraction of petroleum. "That's a big area we have had to take on," Mr Tutty says.
"We're not going to go out of business if the industry is deregulated," he adds drily.
Another important mandate is to ensure energy security so that the country does not grind to a complete standstill in the event of war or some sort of natural catastrophe.
All of the country's gas-fired power stations, for example, must be able to operate with oil as well and every power station must have a five-day supply.
The regulator has also reached agreements with the UK on gas supplies which enter the country from the inter-connector linking the island to Scotland and a new inter-connector that will link the island to Wales, which is due to open in 2012.
Under the agreements, Britain won't shut down supplies in a national emergency.
The CER is also involved in promoting the use of renewable and sustainable energy alongside the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and Sustainable Energy Ireland.
In the past, the regulator has also tried to steer public debate on energy matters with former chairman Tom Reeves for example offering to facilitate a nationwide debate on nuclear power in the hope that it might be part of the solution to our energy needs.
Mr Reeves told an Oireachtas Committee in 2006 that the need for alternative fuel sources to meet future energy needs is even greater now as neither wind power, nor any other renewable energy sources, will satisfy demand.
"Nuclear technology has made enormous advances over recent years and operates to very high standards now.
"The big issue for Ireland is their size -- they need to be smaller and more efficient," Mr Reeves said.
"If you want a plant by 2020 then you had better start now because of the level of objections," he added.