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CRU says profit controls on energy can't be implemented on a domestic level

The chairperson of the CRU said the regulator was ‘deeply concerned’ by the increase in energy costs.

THE COMMISSION FOR the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment and Climate Action that it doesn’t “have anything in our regulatory toolbox” to offset consumer bills with the profits of energy companies.

Speaking to the committee today, top CRU officials said they were “deeply concerned” about the impact of “exceptionally high and volatile wholesale EU gas prices”, and that lengthy planning and permitting processes for infrastructure were harming consumers.

To relieve this pressure, the CRU highlighted that it had extended debt repayments for customers and introduced lower debt repayments for customers with financial hardship prepayment meters.

The usual one-month winter moratorium on disconnections due to non-payment, designed to stop people from suffering from cold in the winter even if they cannot pay their bills, has been extended to three months from December to February.

Vulnerable customers, who are registered as being critically dependent on electrically powered assistive devices such as medical equipment, will receive a moratorium of 6 months from October to the end of March.

Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South-West, Christopher O’Sullivan,  asked if the CRU would cap consumer prices, saying:

“Surely, we should see recommendations that go further. It’s very hard for us to justify six month profits of in and around €400 million.”

Chairperson of the CRU, Aoife MacEvilly, responded:

“I think you’re referring to the ESB profits announced last week. It is ironic that that happened in the same week that Panda Power was exiting the market. It highlights the fact that some suppliers are unable to continue while larger companies including ESB network and generation are making profits.”

She continued that the EU was planning to introduce a package to limit profits for companies that were seeing higher profits but weren’t facing higher costs in buying gas.

“We don’t have anything in our regulatory tool box to deal with that, that’s being tackled at a broader EU level.”

“I think there are other means of tackling the issue, which is not necessarily for individual  regulators to develop, but the EU has said needs to be tackled across the EU.” 

The CRU also stated that customers on financial hardship meters would be put on the most favorable tariffs by companies

The regulator told the committee that they were working to increase renewable energy capacity on the system and establishing a division for regulation of offshore renewables.

However these efforts were being hampered by the lengthy planning process which impacted the generation, capacity, transmission and distribution networks of energy.

This issue is “adding high costs and increased security of supply risks for Irish consumers as well as delaying the achievement of our decarbonisation obligations,” MacEvilly said.

“By way of example, Wind Energy Ireland has advised us in March last, that there were over 1,200 megawatts of wind projects in the planning system with over 500 megawatts in planning since 2020 or before.”

Over 600 megawatts of battery storage was in the planning process since that time, she added.

The North-South Interconnector has not begun construction yet despite being given planning permission on both sides of the border, despite being vital for energy security, MacEvilly said.

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