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Regulator calls on energy firms to cut prices

Energy companies have been called on by the regulator to drop their prices.

Electricity and gas suppliers to households have gained from plunging crude oil and wholesale gas prices.

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

Now Aoife McEvilly of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has called on energy suppliers to pass the benefits of these lower costs on to householders.

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

"We are asking them to pass on the benefits [of lower wholesale fuel costs] to consumers," she told RTE's 'Morning Ireland'.

The CER no longer regulates energy companies on prices, as the market has been fully deregulated since last year.

This came about after both ESB and then Bord Gáis ceased to have dominant positions in the market.

A policy decision was taken to allow all energy companies to set their own prices without getting permission from the regulator, once the former semi-state companies ceased to have market dominance.

Ms McEvilly said Electric Ireland and Pinergy had lowered their prices, and added: "There is scope for other energy suppliers to drop their prices."

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

Economics lecturer at University College Cork 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.

And Simon Moynihan of price comparison site Bonkers.ie said: "There is scope for price cuts of 10pc in electricity and gas unit rates. The companies won't lose out because they have their money made from the winter period."

Ireland has the fourth most expensive electricity in the EU.

Electricity prices have risen by 22pc since 2011, with gas going up 36pc in that period.

Irish Independent