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Regulator denies saying water metering programme should be abandoned

Irish Water and the Commission of Energy Regulation were before the Oireachtas committee today.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

THE ENERGY REGULATOR has denied saying Irish Water should not proceed with metering.

Appearing before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) said it did not “boldly state water metering should be abandoned” in its submission.

As of December, Minister Simon Coveney said the cost of putting close to 880,000 meters in the ground has cost the state €465 million.

It’s understood in their submission to the committee, CER raised concerns about the cost of completing the water metering programme.

“We did not say we should abandon,” said Commissioner of the CER Paul McGowan.

mcgowan

He clarified that what the CER said was that “at this time” to process with another roll out of metering when the expert commission had stated that the majority of people should not pay water charges should be considered.

Water meters

“At this time there are other priorities for capital investment,” said McGowan.

We could back and look at when we might return to metering.

We did not boldly state water metering should be abandoned.

We said at this time.

He agreed when put to him that he meant “parking” the water metering project might be favourable for now.

McGowan said the decision to continue with the water metering project remains with government.

He said the continuation of the water metering programme is a “significant capital programme” – and if it were to continue it would require additional capital or capital would have to be diverted from other projects to bring in metering.

water comm

Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell asked the commissioner why the regulator felt it was part of their role to comment on the metering programme, stating that 75% of the project is “pretty much is finished”.

Upon making this comment there were sniggers heard from a member of the committee, for which O’Connell said she was entitled to a “bit of respect” when talking.

A matter of the regulator 

Commissioner of the CER Paul McGowan said metering is a regulatory matter and forms part of utility regulation in number of different regimes.

He stated the submission made to the committee was based on the questions put to the CER before their appearance today.

He noted that the first phase of water meter installation was a government decision.

McGowan said the next phase of installations, which could involve the roll out of meters in apartment blocks, for instance, was always going to be something the regulator looked at in terms of the cost efficiency.

The committee was told the installation of meters will end, for now, on 31 January.

jerry grant

When outlining Irish Water’s funding requirements, the committee was told that if no customers paid their water charges in 2017, the company would need €232 million from the state to make up the shortfall.

When outlining its funding from the period from 2014-2016, Irish Water received €3.2 billion – with €2.2 billion coming from revenue, €0.7 billion from state equity and €0.8 billion on external borrowings.

Projecting from this year to 2021, Irish Water said it is looking for €8 billion, with €5 billion from the state, €1 billion from equity and state borrowings increased to €2 billion

Representatives from Irish Water told the committee that it is critical there is long-term strategic planning, stating that there was a requirement for certainty of funding on a basis of five years.

Read: Water meters are not the new e-voting machines – they cost us a lot more>

Read: Water charges won’t bring down this government, says Taoiseach>

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