September 26, 2023
Government and regulator failure to tackle rip-off energy prices leads to continued increases in arrears – Darren O’Rourke TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, has criticised the government for inaction to address the high cost of energy in Ireland.

Commenting on the latest arrears and disconnection figures released by the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU), the Meath East TD said:

“The figures are shocking. In the period up to June, 423,889 homes were in arrears. The increase in arrears occurred amongst both electricity and gas domestic customers, having risen to 255,952 and 167,937 respectively. This represents an overall spike of 17,892 since May when I last raised the alarm on the issue.

“To put this into context, that is nearly half a million homes, and 1 in every 8 across the state. Alarmingly, the percentage of households in arrears has jumped from 9% to 12% between the first to second quarters of the year.

“The situation is especially worrying for homes using gas, with almost one quarter (24%) in arrears. The figure is up around 8,000 on the previous quarter.

“It is important to remember that these increases occurred in the warmest, lightest months of the year, and we are facing into the coldest and darkest. People are rightfully anxious about the period ahead.

“The reality is that this situation is totally out of control and unsustainable and the government and the regulator have completely failed to get to grips with it. Going forward, they must ensure that ordinary workers and families can continue to heat and light their homes throughout the Winter.

“After all, Ireland is an outlier in Europe, with our prices falling far slower than other EU member states according to the latest quarterly economic bulletin from the Central Bank. While we have seen some small price decreases lately, they go nowhere near far enough.

“While the government is content with merely commenting on this issue, Sinn Féin has an actual plan. We have introduced legislation to ensure that the regulator is fit for purpose, giving it additional powers to oversee hedging, which is cited as the reason for the lag in price decreases, and furthermore to investigate possible instances of anti-competitive behaviour.

“Significantly, our legislation would also mandate the CRU to specifically consider the affordability of energy in their policy direction, as well as the power to regulate standing charges, neither of which they are currently mandated to do.

“I am calling on the government to urgently introduce these measures so that ordinary workers, families and hard-pressed businesses get the relief they so desperately need.”

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