25 Sept 2022

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Customers can expect electricity credit before Christmas – minister

Customers can expect electricity credit before Christmas – minister

Customers can expect to get an energy credit before Christmas, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has said.

Though the Irish premier would not comment on such a credit as Budget negotiations are ongoing, Taoiseach Micheal Martin described it as a “simple and straightforward” way of helping people with soaring energy costs.

It comes as several energy providers have announced significant electricity and gas price hikes in recent weeks, including an announcement by Energia on the same day as the minister’s comments, to increase gas prices by 39% and electricity prices by 29%.

A 200 euro electricity credit was applied to each household in April as part of measures announced by the Irish Government to help people grapple with the rising cost of living.

Speaking to reporters after the conclusion of Cabinet on Wednesday, Mr Ryan said that there would be another such support before the end of the year.

“We held back. A lot of people were arguing we should have done a mini budget in the summer and we said at the time ‘no’, because the time this is going to hit is the late autumn/ early next year.

“So I think it was absolutely right for us to hold our fire, to wait to see what the real situation was in the autumn, and that’s when we need to provide supports. That’s the right time to do it.”

When asked whether people could expect to get an “electricity payment” before Christmas, Mr Ryan replied “yes”.

The Green Party leader also brought a memo to Cabinet on Wednesday on how public bodies can reduce their energy use during the winter months.

This includes reducing the temperature and duration of the heating, and asking people to gather on the same floor, where occupancy is low due to remote working, in order to heat and light buildings more efficiently.

Public sector bodies will be required to set temperatures to a guideline 19 degrees where appropriate, to turn off heat in office buildings at least 1-2 hours before the buildings close and to ensure that there is no non-security/safety lighting in use after 8pm.

This will be advised and tailored to on a case-by-case basis, with buildings like hospitals not required to reduce temperatures.

It is expected that this will deliver 5-10% in energy savings overall across the sector, and up to 15% in buildings.

Mr Ryan said this would be the first of a series of memos on energy expected over the winter months.

“We’ll start with the public sector, what are we doing ourselves? Lead by example, cutting our energy,” he said.

Reform of the European energy market and supports for people in Budget 2023 will also form part of the government response to the energy crisis, he said.

Mr Ryan also added that “we will intervene to give supports for businesses directly” to help with soaring energy bills which he said could see people’s bills double.

The Department of Enterprise is currently working on such proposals, he added.

Speaking at an event in Dublin on Wednesday, Mr Martin said: “This is a crisis that can continue on well into 2023. And we’re very conscious of that, also. So, we do need sustainability in our response to this crisis financially.

“There is a balance between ease of getting money to people to enable them to reduce the pressures on them and the energy credit was one such useful instrument on the last occasion that was simple and straightforward.

“But there were a number of other mechanisms as well we know and approaches that we can take to help people get through this particular period.

“We envisage the cost-of-living package will enable us to apply funding to this calendar year 2022. And then we have to see in terms of 2023 in the context of the Budget.”

Mr Martin insisted the advice being given to households to reduce energy consumption in the evening time is simply advice.

“Energy efficiency is a no-brainer in this situation,” he said. “In fact, Europe is looking at far more radical approaches to energy efficiency than we’ve had to consider.”

He added other member states across Europe are implementing “far tougher regimes” to reduce energy consumption.

“It makes sense that we would be a bit more energy-efficient than perhaps we were when there wasn’t this crisis,” Mr Martin said.

“I think that’s a sensible approach and we need to keep a sense of perspective about it.

“It’s not about one person looking at what the other person is doing. It’s just being sensible, insofar as we can in terms of our energy usage.”

He added: “The advice is advice. Obviously people have their own different circumstances and that’s it.”

Meanwhile, Energia is the latest energy supplier to announce a hike for its residential electricity and gas prices.

The prices will increase from October 7, and it is the second time the energy company has increased its prices this year.

Customers will see their electricity bills increase by 29%, working out at an increase of just under 10 euro a week.

Gas customers will see their bills go up by 39%, an average of an extra 10 euro a week.

The price hike will affect some 160,000 electricity customers and some 60,000 gas customers.

“Wholesale prices for gas and electricity in Ireland are at unprecedented levels creating significant challenges for customers, as well as for the proper functioning of the energy industry and the wider economy,” Energia said in a statement.

“Coordinated government intervention is urgently required to support energy customers financially this winter and beyond.”

Energia is among several energy companies to announce price hikes in recent weeks.

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