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Airtricity pays €70m dividend to UK from Irish bills

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Airtricity’s Dunneill wind warm near Dromore West in Co Sligo

Airtricity’s Dunneill wind warm near Dromore West in Co Sligo

Airtricity’s Dunneill wind warm near Dromore West in Co Sligo

Airtricity has defended its decision to pay its UK owner SSE a €70m dividend rather than pass on savings to Irish energy consumers.

Like ESB and Bord Gais, the energy supplier has passed on a steep dividend to its owners rather than use profits to lower the cost of bills for hard-pressed consumers.

Irish people pay the fourth highest energy costs in Europe. Electricity prices have risen by 22pc since 2011 while gas has climbed 36pc.

Large profits allowed the ESB to pay a dividend of €269m to the Government in 2013. It is due to pay another special dividend of €400m soon. Bord Gais, meanwhile, doubled its dividend to €50m last year. Some commentators have called this a "stealth tax".

Falls in the cost of oil and wholesale gas in recent weeks should further boost their profits in 2015.

Energy suppliers' failure to pass these savings on to consumers prompted a public reproach from Commission for Energy Regulation this week.

There has only been a 2pc cut in standard electricity rates, introduced by both Electric Ireland and pay-as-you-go operator Pinergy.

Economic and energy experts say it would be reasonable for price drops of 10pc for both electricity and gas standard rates.

Economics lecturer at UCC Seamus Coffey said the sharp falls in wholesale gas prices meant it was cheaper to generate electricity, and imported gas had also become less costly.

Aoife McEvilly, one of three commissioners at the CER, said her office was engaged with energy firms, asking them about charging plans.

Responding to a query from the Sunday Independent, Airtricity said the €70m dividend paid to its UK parent came from profits accumulated over five years in Ireland.

"The profits we earn support sustainable growth for our business and it is the dividend we pay to our shareholders that allows SSE to continue to make a direct investment contribution of over €2bn into Ireland since 2008 creating jobs and stimulating economic growth here" said Airtricity's Jason Cooke.

Sunday Independent