HOMEOWNERS WILL NOT have to pay up front for water meters as the charges will be spread out over a period of 20 years, reports indicate this morning.
The Cabinet is currently in meetings to discuss the establishment of a new public body, Irish Water, which will oversee the delivery of water services in Ireland.
It is understood that the Government has a choice between setting up a completely new agency or allow an existing utility take over from 34 local authorities. Bids from Bord na Móna and Bord Gáis are being considered.
The Commission for Energy Regulation will have oversight of whichever agency is to deliver water services. It will determine the cost of the service, the free allowance and the framework for levying the charges.
Enda Kenny told RTÉ that homeowners will not face an installation charge for the meters as that cost will be covered from a loan from the National Pension Reserve Fund.
However, he confirmed that the meters themselves will have to be paid for by the consumer.
A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment told TheJournal.ie this morning that any speculation over the past three days is pre-empting what the regulator will say.
Echoing the Taoiseach’s earlier statement, he said that the money borrowed from the NPRF will have to be paid back.
The Consumer Association of Ireland has called the situation “ridiculous”.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, chief executive Dermot Jewell said the charge is both “unacceptable” and “unreasonable”.
“It’s a case of the cart before the horse,” he added. “The cost of the provision of this service will need to be outlined and we need to know if this is value for money.”
According to reports in both the Irish Times and Irish Independent this morning, households will be asked to pay about €40 per year over the next two decades to cover the cost of their water meters.
The breakdown of the charges will be similar to those invoiced by the ESB, which includes the cost of a meter in its overall connection charge when supplying electricity to a new home but also levies services costs every two months.
“It could be something like this,” added the spokesperson this morning when asked to verify the reports. “But again we are pre-empting what the regulator will said and it will be up to it.”
The installation of meters is due to begin this year with plans for nine out of 10 homes to be liable for the new fees by 2014.
Two years ago
In October 2010, talks got underway between Siemens and the Government as the energy company had reportedly offered the State a loan so it could begin the task of installing water meters across 1.1 million homes.
On contacting the company this week, TheJournal.ie learned that there is “nothing much happening” in Siemens in relation to this year’s proposals.
However, a spokesperson for the firm said it was “monitoring what is going on”.
He added that the discussions held in 2010 centred on a proposed model of spreading out the cost of the meter, rather than an outright offer.
At the time, it was reported that the cost of the move would be paid back through savings in the Government’s multi-billion euro water services programme.
“Water continues to be an area which is of interest to us,” concluded the spokesperson.