Teachtaí Darren O’Rourke, Réada Cronin and Seanadóir Lynn Boylan have called on the Government to support Sinn Féin’s Electricity Regulation (Amendment) (Standing Charges) Bill 2023 which was introduced to the Dáil today. This legislation would address the fact that the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is completely powerless to prevent energy companies from using standing charges as a means of increasing their profit.
The CRU has repeatedly confirmed that they lack the legislative remit to regulate standing charges. In one of a package of measures to address Ireland’s rip off energy prices, Sinn Féin has proposed to remedy this, instilling some much-needed order and fairness into the market.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Teachta O’Rourke, said:
“The last 18 months have put into sharp focus just how essential it is that we have a regulatory body that has the ability to effectively monitor and supervise the energy market. Instead what we have is absolute chaos. While workers and families continue to be crippled by sky high energy prices, energy companies have seemingly free rein to do as they please.
“Most people were shocked to learn that standing charges are not regulated. As ridiculous as this seems, it does help to explain why some energy companies were free to increase their standing charges by €300 last year. One supplier was even charging up to €700 per year in standard changes alone; that is €700 before you even switch on a light!
“And if that wasn’t bad enough, we know that despite the fact that wholesale gas and energy prices have dropped significantly since their peak last year, absolutely zero effort has been made to pass this on to consumers.
“Energy companies tell us this is because of their ‘hedging’ strategies. However the reality is that oversight and regulation of these practices is seriously deficient.
“And the only tool the CRU has to address in their arsenal? Mere encouragement!
“Well that is not good enough. Not good enough for the thousands of small businesses at risk of closing down, nor for the families and workers who cannot afford to make ends meet, nor for the hundreds of thousands of people living in energy poverty.”
Teachta Cronin said:
“This situation is not sustainable. That is why Sinn Féin is calling on the Government to urgently address it by supporting this Bill.
“It would provide a legislative basis for the CRU not only to effectively monitor standing changes and to investigate suspected instances of their use to increase profits but also the power to require suppliers with excessive rates to decrease them to cover their fixed costs only. Finally this Bill would also require utility companies to seek prior approval from the CRU for any proposed increase in the rate of their standing charge.
“This Bill is only one in a host of measures Sinn Féin has proposed to address this disorder and to rein-in energy companies. Last week, Sinn Féin introduced a Private Members Bill that, alongside the regulation of standing charges, would strengthen the mandate of the CRU to evaluate hedging practices, but it would also provide for the necessary resourcing and staffing to carry out these functions.”
Senator Lynn Boylan said:
“Sinn Féin has also called for the introduction of price caps on energy Bills and furthermore for a strengthening of the Government’s pathetic windfall tax that fails to address the frankly obscene profits earned last summer.
“There are so many tools at the Government’s disposal but they remain paralysed, preferring instead to prioritise the profits of energy companies over people.
“It’s high-time that the Government stopped acting as mere commentators and we urge them to support Sinn Féin’s Bill.”