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Energy prices

Finance minister tells energy companies to 'treat customers equally' and reduce household bills

Senior members of government have said another energy credit is a possibility in winter if prices have not fallen.

THE MINISTER FOR Finance has called on energy companies to reduce customer bills as wholesale prices fall after months of high bills.

Senior members of Government have said that another energy credit to help to reduce the burden of expensive bills is a possibility in the winter months if prices have not fallen but that they would prefer to see the cost of electricity and gas to drop over the course of the year.

Finance Minister Michael McGrath said this morning that energy companies should pass on reductions in the wholesale market to customers, both households and businesses.

His comments follow a decision by Electric Ireland this week to decrease electricity bills for business customers by an average of 10% without announcing any similar cut for households.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, McGrath said that “we need to see reductions in retail prices charged to all consumers, both households and businesses”.

I think all customers should be treated fairly and equally.

“It didn’t take very long for the prices to go up when wholesale prices increased and now that they have come back down, we do need to see those reductions being passed on to customers who are under pressure because all of this can’t fall on the government; it can’t all fall on taxpayers to step in and provide support every time.”

The government introduced a series of €200 energy credits in the Budget to take the top off bills amid skyrocketing increases for customers and inflation more broadly across the economy.

The last planned credit is due to be paid this month, though the government has not ruled out instating another one later in the year if bills fail to fall.

“There are undoubtedly many people around the country who have received very large bills in recent weeks and we do have the additional electricity credit this month and we have just approved a new package of almost €1.3 billion which is largely targeted at those who are most need it,” McGrath said.

“We haven’t ruled out further electricity credit or further assistance later in the year but we do believe that we should retain resources and have firepower for later in the year in the event that we need it.” 

Similarly, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told RTÉ One’s Prime Time last night that an additional energy credit is a possibility in the winter “when bills are inherently worse”.

He said any additional credit would be funded through a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies.

“That’s something that we can reinstate in the winter if prices don’t come down, but what I want to see is prices coming down. I’m not going to stand for companies making massive profits and then expecting the taxpayer to fund energy rates,” the Taoiseach said.

“People are seeing some really eye-watering bills at the moment. The winter bills are arriving now.

“I’m meeting a lot of people in my constituency and elsewhere who are getting bills of €700 for two months.”

Energy companies have faced scrutiny over the last year as a combination of Russia’s war on Ukraine and other global factors, such as the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, saw gas and electricity prices rise.

Many homes, businesses and farms in Ireland experienced steep increases in their bills in recent months compared to previous years, forcing the government to introduce additional social welfare payments and electricity credits in its annual Budget and more recently in a cost-of-living package.

However, some major energy firms have simultaneously reported large profits.

Wholesale electricity prices have started to fall, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office, dropping by 41.4% in January 2023 compared to December and 19.5% year-on-year.

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