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2022 among 'most challenging' years for energy sector, watchdog to tell politicians

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities will also outline the impact of the electricity sector on reducing customer debt.

2022 WAS AMONG the “most challenging” years for the energy sector, the utilities watchdog is set to tell TDs and Senators.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment and Climate Action this morning to face questions from politicians about its work.

Key areas of discussion will be energy security and supply, the impact of high energy prices, the transition to renewable energy and data centres.

In its opening statement, the Commission will outline that “2022 was one of the most challenging periods for the energy sector, and indeed for the CRU, since our inception”.

“In addition to our own security of supply risks in electricity, the war in Ukraine created a new gas and electricity security crisis across the EU, along with high and volatile prices which are continuing to cause real hardship for customers.”

The Commission “remain[s] very concerned at the impact of high energy prices on households and businesses”.

However, it will tell the committee that the electricity credit introduced last year had a positive effect on reducing customer debt.

Domestic electricity customers in arrears stood at 283,125 in the first three months of 2022. The figure dropped to 217,459 in the second quarter before rising to 259,293 in the third quarter and finally fell to 227,681 at the end of the year.

Similarly, the number of domestic gas customers in arrears was 135,546 in the first quarter; 140,806 in the second; 137,237 in the third; and 139,785 in the final quarter. 

The CRU will tell the committee that this year it will increase its work on improving demand-side flexibility, using smart metering infrastructure to lower costs, and support reductions in energy emissions.

“A key priority for 2023 will be recruiting new staff to build out our new Decarbonisation Division and stand up new CRU teams, including the new District Heating team which is being put in place shortly to address the new functions we have recently been given in this area,” it will say.

In a statement, Committee Cathaoirleach and Green Party TD Brian Leddin said that the CRU “is accountable to this Committee and we plan to have regular oversight engagements with them”.

“Areas of interest for this meeting include energy security and supply, the impact of high energy prices on domestic customers and businesses and measures to protect vulnerable customers, data centres, and energy transition in Ireland and as part of the wider European market.”

The CRU will be represented by Chairperson Aoife MacEvilly and six other high-level officials.

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