September 18, 2023
“Irish government must protect those struggling to pay their energy bills.” – Chris MacManus MEP

“Irish government must protect those struggling to pay their energy bills.” – Chris MacManus MEP

MacManus calls for better protection for energy-poor consumers as Parliament tackles electricity market reforms

As new rules on the design of the EU’s electricity market make their way through the European Parliament, Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has called for better protection of vulnerable consumers still facing unpredictable energy costs. “As the EU makes technical changes to its electricity market rules, the Irish government must make sure to offer the maximum available protection to those struggling to pay their energy bills.”

“The Commission’s proposal introduced a ban on electricity disconnections for vulnerable consumers, and the European Parliament is proposing to strengthen this by extending the ban on disconnections to all those facing energy poverty. But Ireland can already extend these protections to all energy-poor households, under existing EU laws on the electricity market. This can be done by means of a simple definition change.”

MacManus outlined, “The EU’s Electricity Directive already allows for a range of protections for vulnerable consumers, such as shielding from disconnections, ensuring a minimum energy supply and support for energy efficiency measures. However, it is up to Member States to define who is considered a ‘vulnerable consumer’. In Ireland, the term covers those who are particularly vulnerable for reasons of age, or physical or mental health. But it could be expanded to consider income levels and risk of energy poverty. Heading into winter, this is a simple measure the government can take now to protect low-income households from electricity disconnections.”

Commenting on the reform of the EU’s electricity market design more broadly, MacManus noted that the reform proposal was “a missed opportunity. Given the energy price crisis we have been experiencing, it was time for a deep rethink of the principles and priorities that govern the EU’s electricity system. Instead, we got a lot of technical tweaks to the existing, market-centric model. This is why I tabled amendments in the Economic Affairs Committee which sought to prioritise the protection of energy-poor consumers, rather than the philosophy of market liberalisation that has governed the EU’s electricity system for 30 years.” 

MacManus concluded, “The next mandate of the European Commission and Parliament will need to look more seriously at the question of energy market reform. As we move towards a system with more decentralised, renewable energy production, we need to ensure that the guiding principles of our energy laws are people’s basic right to energy and the responsibility of all actors in the energy system to provide clean, affordable energy as a public good.” ENDS

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