O’Donnell concerned over energy ‘rip-off’

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

'Rip-off': Deputy Kieran O'Donnell
FINE Gael’s Deputy Kieran O’Donnell has called on energy companies to explain why falling oil prices are not being passed on to householders.

FINE Gael’s Deputy Kieran O’Donnell has called on energy companies to explain why falling oil prices are not being passed on to householders.

He wants the providers hauled over the coals before a Dail committee to account publicly for their pricing.

While Limerick motorists have been reaping the benefits of falling wholesale prices at the pumps, Deputy O’Donnell said householders have had no such relief.

“We need to ensure that consumers aren’t being ripped off,” he said.

Of the major energy companies, only Bord Gais and Airtricity have committed to a slight reduction in their rates, the change to become effective from March.

Deputy O’Donnell has now welcomed the fact that “energy providers are being called before the Oireachtas committee responsible for energy policy to account for why consumer electricity and gas prices in Ireland are not being dropped”.

“Irish energy companies must explain why they are holding prices for consumers at high levels despite huge drops in the wholesale prices they pay for the oil and gas they use to generate energy,” said Deputy O’Donnell.

“The reality is that Ireland is the fourth most expensive country in the EU for electricity, even though the crude oil market internationally is at its lowest point in six years and the price of gas on the international market has dropped by almost 30% in the last year.

“This is clearly not reflected in household gas and electricity bills. Indeed, with the drop in temperatures this month, I’m concerned that people may actually be facing high bills despite the backdrop of falling fuel prices on the international markets.”

Deputy O’Donnell is among those to have requested that the chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications, Deputy John O’Mahony, call in the energy companies.

“I expect that Deputy O’Mahony and the committee will be inviting the energy providers to appear shortly,” said Deputy O’Donnell.

“Clearly, it is not acceptable if energy providers are paying substantially reduced rates for their fuel but not passing this on to consumers. It is essential that they publicly account for the difference between what is happening in the crude oil and gas market where they buy fuel, and the consumer energy market where they sell energy.”

Deregulation of Ireland’s energy market was supposed to have heralded a new era of competition with reduced rates being passed on to consumers.

The Commission for Energy Regulation has had no role in fixing energy prices since the market was liberalised.

A number of energy companies have said in recent interviews that hedging and buying supplies in advance mitigate against immediately passing on decreases in wholesale prices to consumers.