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Minister meeting energy companies to discuss protections for PAYG and vulnerable customers

The minister is also discussing customers supports and charges with the service providers.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Oct 6th 2022, 2:39 PM

MINISTER EAMON RYAN is meeting energy companies today to “to see what additional measures we can put in place to protect people” on pay-as-you-go meters and more vulnerable customers.

This is the second meeting the minister has had with the energy companies this week, having also met with them yesterday. Further meetings planned for the coming weeks.

In meetings so far a range of issues have been discussed – including energy prices and charges, energy market projections and hedging for coming months, and critically, customer supports, it is understood. 

Discussions with suppliers have also taken place around the measures that are place to ensure that householders, including pay-as-you-go customers and vulnerable customers, will be protected through the winter.

This is in addition to the budget, social protection and CRU customer protection measures already in place. 

On RTÉ News at One today, Ryan told presenter Ryan Dobson that energy supply not meeting demand happens on a fairly regular basis.

“In winter, we have storms and just quite often periods where large sections of the country for a period of hours may not have power available. So that’s something we’re used to managing and it’d be similar in that sense that it would be very short. It should be the location to certain areas,” he said.

“The warning beforehand would be a number of hours, not a number of days.”

He also said that there have been recent discussions on the plans for a coordinated EU windfall tax on energy companies.

“At the Energy Council meeting last Friday, we had that coordination in how we get the windfall gains from the energy industries back to the to the consumers and how we agree on that flexible demand or the way you manage flexible demand. ”

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions today, the Tánaiste said the minister is meeting with the service providers to see if those customers on pay-as-you-go meters can be put on the “most economic tariff”.

Sinn Féín’s Pearse Doherty called for an immediate ban on disconnections. Those on prepaid meters have no guarantee that they will not be disconnected this winter, he said. 

Doherty said 712 households have already been disconnected in the first half of this year. He said approximately 346,000 households use prepaid electricity meters, raising concerns around the difficulties in providing additional credits to pay-as-you-go customers.

“Many of those prepaid meters are already rationing their electricity for fear of being caught off,” he said.

Varadkar said the amount a customer can run over by has been extended from €10 t0 €20, adding that disconnections can not happen at the weekends.

“That’s not the full solution… it’s not an adequate solution,’ he said.

“I know that’s not enough. We will need to come up with a better solution for those customers to make sure that people are not disconnected over winter regardless as to how they pay,” he added.

Pay-as-you-go meters is a “much more complicated system”, said Varadkar. 

Micheál Martin said yesterday that people should not have their electricity cut off this winter unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Facing questions from reporters in Government Buildings about the threat of disconnections hanging over people, the Taoiseach said:

“First of all, I’ve made it clear, in my view, unless there are extenuating circumstances, [people] will not be cut off”, said Martin. He said a reason may be for example that someone is not engaging with the energy company.  

Given the Government supports provided and the lump sum payments, “people should not be cut off”, said Martin. 

He added in Leaders Questions earlier in the day he had gone through all of the various pillars “that in my view avoids people having to be cut off, that’s the bottom line there”. 

He said the Government has provided an “extensive package” including once-off measures to help people, but added that emergency social welfare payments are also available.

The Money Advice Bureau (MABs) is also a “very important organisation”, he said, while the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has also “brought in extra protections”. 

The Government will be working with energy companies, he added, stating that service suppliers also have an obligation not to cut people off if they are engaging with them. 

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