Sinn Féin have launched legislation to ensure that energy companies are regulated fairly so that customers are protected.
Sinn Féin’s Electricity Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2023 introduces measures to ensure that the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is fit for purpose, including increased power to monitor and regulate hedging practices and to investigate and sanction instances of anti-competitive behaviour in the energy market.
The Bill was brought forward by Sinn Féin spokesperson for Climate Action and the Environment, Darren O’Rourke TD and Senator Lynn Boylan, after the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities confirmed to the climate committee that they do not have oversight over the hedging strategies of energy companies, meaning that such strategies remain totally unregulated.
Commenting on the published legislation, Teachta O’Rourke said:
“Irish energy prices are some of the highest in Europe. Workers and families are struggling to afford their energy bills. They need a break from these sky high costs.
“Despite the fact that wholesale energy prices have fallen 64% from July last year to a new two year low, the cost of energy is still exorbitantly high and continues to place considerable strain on ordinary workers and families.
“The fact is when compared to our European counterparts, Ireland remains and outlier. Retail energy prices were falling all over Europe while Ireland’s remained stubbornly high. Although more recently, some energy companies have begun lowering the prices following the entry of a new lower price competitor to the market, the fact remains that the average bill is now almost €1,000 more than last year!
“The reason for this, we are told, is because of the so-called hedging practices of energy companies. Yet our own regulator has absolutely zero oversight over this, as was confirmed by the CRU’s latest visit to the climate committee. Evidently, we’re just supposed to trust that energy companies are not taking advantage of sky-high prices while simultaneously maintaining obscene profits. All in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis! It beggars belief!
“It is clear that ordinary workers and families have had enough. While the government and the regulator act as mere commentators, Sinn Féin is ready to tackle this issue once and for all. Our legislation introduces a suite of practical measures to ensure that the regulator has the regulatory teeth to rein in energy companies. It also enhances transparency and accountability thus bringing the Irish regulator in line with European counterparts.
“I am urging all TDs to stand up for Irish customers and back our legislation.”
Seanadóir Boylan said:
“This is an important piece of legislation that will stand up for customers and protect them from unfair hedging practices by energy companies. Households clearly need a break from spiralling costs and they need it now.
“It will specifically mandate the CRU to monitor and regulate hedging practice and anti-competitive behaviour and will equip the regulator with the power to sanction any profiteering that has been identified. The Bill also enhances consumer protection by mandating the CRU to consider the affordability of energy which, up until this point, has been a glaring gap in the regulator’s responsibilities. Significantly, the Bill also obligates the CRU to consider consumer interests in all regulatory decisions made.
“The CRU’s reporting obligation is also improved. They will be mandated to report i) monthly on the average price of natural gas and electricity supply and the average margin received by natural gas and electricity suppliers; ii) quarterly on the compliance of electricity and gas transmission and distribution operators with an agreed code of conduct and an evaluation of the independence of these networks, including an examination of the changes in the prices paid by domestic and business customers on the retail market and iii) annually on the compliance of electricity and gas transmission and distribution operators with an agreed code of conduct and an evaluation of the independence of these networks.”
“Whether an example of gross negligence or gross neglect, the government cannot continue to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the disorder and disarray in Irish energy markets. Winter is fast approaching – workers and families cannot face another winter of having to choose between heating and eating. The government have told us for months they were doing all they could to address Ireland’s exorbitant energy bills. While we can’t find any evidence of that, with this legislation Sinn Féin has given them the answer to a fairer more transparent energy market. We are urging them to take it. People deserve nothing less.”
The legislation is available to view here: Electricity Regulation legislation