Coalition should turn up heat on energy suppliers
Published 26/01/2016 | 02:30
Someone once said that with power comes responsibility; of course, they weren't talking about the kind of power we get from electricity and gas, but it applies to the suppliers of both too. As wholesale prices plummet, energy utilities have a responsibility to pass on some of the benefit to consumers - especially given the fact that these prices are at a six-year low.
Their failure to cut costs has understandably left them open to accusations of "profiteering". Energy Minister Alex White is now thinking of turning up the heat on suppliers and demanding an explanation as to why homeowners are not getting a fairer cut. This is an opportunity for the Labour minister to show that he won't stand by as consumers get it in the neck.
It has been said that diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments. Mr White has few statutory powers at his disposal, but he would have considerable support from consumers, and control of the high ground when it comes to the public mood is a considerable advantage. If the energy companies prove unwilling or reluctant to heed his words, he should call them back in again as many times as is necessary for them to appreciate that anything less than a fair deal for consumers is unacceptable.
It would be very foolish of the energy companies to persist in pocketing excess profits, regardless of the costs to households.
Given that the average wholesale price for January is now 40pc lower than the average monthly price for the same month over the previous three years, the case for a cut is overwhelming. While electricity and gas prices have dropped by 5pc in the last year, this is risible given the savings made by suppliers.
It is true that utilities are no longer regulated on the price they charge consumers but there is a moral imperative to be equitable. Deputy chairman of the Consumers' Association Michael Kilcoyne has appealed to the minister to insist on cuts. The energy regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation, could also turn the screw on suppliers if they remain impervious to reason - after all, isn't that what regulatory bodies are supposed to do?