Monday 18 February 2019

Government turns up heat on energy firms to cut prices

Minister Alex White
Minister Alex White
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Energy Minister Alex White is calling in the bosses of the energy firms in a bid to push them to cut prices for households.

Electricity and gas suppliers have been accused of failing to pass on the benefits of plunging commodity prices in the form of lower prices for families.

Now Mr White is to demand answers from the heads of Electric Ireland/ESB, Bord Gais, SSE Airtricity, and Energia, the Irish Independent has learned. It follows pressure from this newspaper for price cuts.

A spokesman for the minister said: "Energy prices are a big burden on families. Although the Government has no power to set energy prices, the minister is arranging to meet with the CEOs of the energy supplier companies soon to find out why it takes so long to pass on wholesale price reductions to domestic customers."

The department met the Commission for Energy Regulation commissioners (CER) on the matter last week.

The CER no longer regulates firms on the prices they charge, after Electric Ireland ceased to have dominance in the electricity market and since Bord Gais no longer dominates the domestic gas market.

But last week, CER commissioner Aoife McEvilly called on energy suppliers to pass on the benefits of lower costs to householders.

Wholesale gas prices are down 24pc in the past year. Half of the electricity generated in this State is from gas and it is the main input for residential gas supplies.

There have been no standard gas price cuts for consumers, with just a 2pc cut in standard electricity tariffs.

Energy experts have said there is scope for a 10pc cut in gas and electricity prices, which would save the average household €200 a year.

Bord Gais is under fresh pressure after its sister company British Gas cut prices by 5pc in the UK this week.

Simon Moynihan of price comparison site Bonkers.ie said suppliers in Britain were reacting after Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said he was calling energy bosses in to explain their failure to cut prices.

Mr Moynihan said: "British Gas (through parent company Centrica) owns Bord Gais Energy now. Will they make a similar price cut here?"

A 5pc cut in gas prices would save average households €50 per year. Add a similar electricity price cut, and savings would be over €110 a year.

Irish Independent

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