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Using household appliances outside peak hours will help shore up energy security, says Ryan

The three coalition leaders met last night to discuss the rising cost in energy and supports needed.

GOVERNMENT ADVICE TO householders on how to reduce their energy consumption will be “strengthened” after Cabinet sign off today. 

While the Government already launched their ‘Reduce Your Use’ campaign a number of months ago, encouraging people to cut back on their energy consumption, due to the recent surge in wholesale energy prices, the advice will be more “direct” today. 

Energy Minister Eamon Ryan will bring a memo to Cabinet which will put a renewed emphasis on the campaign, asking the public to use cookers, washing machines, dryers and kettles outside the peak hours where possible.

Ryan said yesterday that the campaign advice will be “strengthened and much more widely deployed”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, the minister said such measures are “not only  a good way of actually keeping our [energy] security, it’s also a good way of saving money”. 

If the public, the Government and business do not cut back on their energy consumption between now and the end of the year, energy supply will be “very tight”, said Ryan.

“We could all play our part, making sure that we don’t use energy between 5 and 7 o’clock in the evening,” he said.

“That’s the time when actually the last generator goes on. So if we can use some of our devices, in large industry or at home, those washing machines, dishwashers which can be done on a time basis, that actually is one of the best ways of getting through the winter.”

However, he added that supply will also depend on a “whole number of different variables” such as how cold the winter will be, how much wind there might be, as well as the performance of power stations in operation.

The performance of Ireland’s power stations will be key in ensuring there are no blackouts this winter, said Ryan. When asked if he could give any guarantees as regards power outages, the minister replied: “No.”

Ryan said the message will also be about “maintaining your comfort”. 

“The important message going out to our households this winter is stay warm,” he said, adding that householders will be asked to be “clever” and not “wasteful” with their energy usage.  

The advice will be aimed at both households and businesses, but Ryan said the public sector will be called on to lead by example. The minister also commented yesterday on Christmas street lighting this year, stating that local councils were considering the issue. 

Coalition leaders met last night to discuss the rising cost of energy, as well as what the public sector can do to “show leadership in how to reduce energy costs”. 

This will include curtailing the lighting up of state buildings, regulating the thermostat in public buildings, , consolidating buildings, reducing unnecessary heating of low occupancy spaces, optimising heating timers and reducing use in peak times.

19 degrees in public buildings 

The Government will put forward a guideline that all public bodies should heat their buildings at 19 degrees Celsius, however, it is reiterated that this may not be the case for all buildings. 

“It’s very practical and we will lead off in the public sector,” said Ryan last night.

“We don’t want anyone in this country going through a winter where they’re not keeping properly warm”, said the minister, but added that it is about being smart and about the public sector setting standards.

“We set a maximum temperature of 19 degrees so that we’re not overheating certain rooms,” he said.

However, Ryan has indicated that State buildings open to the public like schools and libraries would not be affected in the same way as Government office buildings when it comes to reducing energy usage.

“We need our children in school and I think we have to look at other measures within those school operations to try and save energy,” said Ryan. 

While other countries, such as Germany and France, have already moved on temperature and lighting curtailment in their public buildings, there are concerns within Government about the scale of it.

Sources said it would “send a message”, but having a “dark city” throughout the winter could have knock on impacts in consumer sentiment and tourism, and might not save that much energy. 

Ryan said that not all public bodies or public buildings will have to follow the guidelines, stating that it will depend on each circumstance, stating that the Government do not want to put people’s health or safety at risk either. 

Coalition leaders also discussed supports that will be rolled out in the budget for households and businesses to deal with rising energy bills. A Government source said  “none of us want businesses to close down”.

The leaders agreed to meet again before the budget to discuss the measures.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin yesterday pledged to provide “substantial” supports as the public faces soaring energy prices.

Martin said that government leaders will meet to discuss Budget Day measures to help alleviate the pressure on households. He said the country has to work together to reduce energy demand.

He would not be drawn on whether the Government will consider capping energy prices.

Much of what the Government will do to deal with the energy crisis is dependent on Europe, with EU energy ministers meeting on Friday to discuss urgent interventions.  

Relying on corporation tax receipts 

Separately, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will pushback against calls from his ministerial colleagues to inflate the cost-of-living budget based on the bumper Exchequer return results last Friday, which showed a €6.3bn surplus. 

The minister will bring a report to Cabinet today on the corporation tax receipts, noting that the recovery in Ireland’s public finances is due to their continuing surge.

Donohoe will reiterate to ministers that the receipts are “potentially extremely volatile and cannot be guaranteed at current levels into the future”.

More than half of our corporate tax yield is now paid by ten large companies.

Cabinet will be told that this means a very significant portion of our tax take is subject to the businesses decisions of a small number of taxpayers.

Ministers will be warned that the buoyant corporate tax receipts we have experienced over the past several years could be transient, and they do not form a sound basis for building permanent commitments.

Donohoe requested officials to examine how much of the current corporation tax yield may be “excess”, above what should be expected from the economic fundamentals.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath is to issue a warning to ministers that have an overspend in their departments, particularly the Department of Health, to reign it in, in what is viewed as an attempt to dampen down expectations ahead of the budget.

Rosslare Port 

On another matter, McGrath will seek Cabinet approval for the OPW to proceed to tender for permanent Brexit infrastructure upgrade works at Rosslare Europort.

The Government regard the port as a critical infrastructure project to ensure compliance with EU Customs, sanitary and food control legislation.

Three agencies will be involved in the checks taking place at Rosslare: Revenue, the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine and the Department of Health/HSE

To be eligible for Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) funding, the project must proceed as quickly as possible to maximise completion by the end of December 2023.

The estimated cost is upwards of €200 million.

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