Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the costs of importing fossil fuels to Ireland for the past five years; his views on the increasing costs and the effect that this will have on competitiveness for businesses here, and the increasing costs to households; the measures he will take to reduce these costs and improve Ireland’s competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
REPLY (Minister Alex White):
I and my Department are acutely aware of the financial challenges faced by families and businesses from high electricity prices. However, it is important to note that the electricity and gas markets are commercial, liberalised, and competitive and that they operate within national and European regulatory regimes.
I have no statutory function in the setting or review of electricity prices. Responsibility for electricity and gas market regulation is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body.
Comprehensive data on fossil fuel prices is available in the recently published Energy in Ireland 1990-2013 report. This is published by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and is available on their website.
At a national level, electricity and gas prices are no longer regulated by CER. The competitive energy market results in choices for consumers and businesses in terms of suppliers, products and prices and exerts downward pressure on prices.
The reduction in wholesale gas prices since the beginning of 2014 has led to reductions in the wholesale electricity price. These reductions should have a knock on impact on retail prices and are reflected in the latest Eurostat figures, published by the SEAI on the 9 December 2014 in their report Electricity and Gas Prices in Ireland.
The report shows that all business consumption bands in both electricity and gas experienced reductions in average prices in the first half of 2014, ranging from 0.7% to 4% in electricity and 6.7% to 12.9% in gas.
Similarly, Eurostat figures show a reduction of 5.7% in the average price of gas in the residential consumption band with the largest share of the market, while the average price of electricity in the residential consumption band with the largest share experienced a reduction of 1.3%.
Consumers can try to mitigate electricity and gas prices by shopping around to get the best possible price and service deal from suppliers and I would encourage them to do so. Measures such as comparison websites, approved by the CER, exist to assist them in this endeavour.