Government considering ‘time-of-day pricing’ to meet costs

The government is exploring the possibility of using “hourly pricing” for electricity to deal with soaring energy costs.

Time-of-day pricing is a system in which the cost of electricity is lower at certain times of the day when demand is lower.

This means, for example, that consumers could use a washing machine at a time of day when energy prices are lower.

Environment, Climate and Communications Minister Eamon Ryan said time-of-day charging could allow people “to save more through the charging mechanism”.

“We will be introducing mechanisms like this in the coming weeks,” said Minister Ryan.

He said the government will look at market mechanisms and other efficiencies and “not just watch the government sign every check”.

He was responding to Social Democrat co-leader Róisícn Shortall, who told the Dáil there was “an emergency situation”.

Minister Ryan said he would meet with energy providers again and ask them to consider putting all customers on the great deal that new customers get.

He said he would ask them to look at this measure, which is used in the UK, and see if it could work in Ireland.

Minister Ryan said BSE had hedged against the risk of rising gas prices over the past year by buying futures contracts for gas used to generate electricity.

However, he said, these hedging strategies are now coming to an end and that is why Electric Ireland had to announce the very large increases in gas and electricity prices yesterday.

The announced rate hikes provided for residential electricity prices to rise by 23.4% and gas prices by 24.8% starting May 1, 2022.

The company said the increases would typically add €24.80 per month to the average residential electricity bill and €18.35 per month to the average residential gas bill, based on the estimated annual bill as defined by the Utilities Regulatory Commission.

Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin indicated that the government could change the eligibility criteria for the payment of the fuel allowance and that social protection measures to help families with children could be considered.

People Before Profit/Solidarity’s Richard Boyd Barrett said Electric Ireland’s electricity and gas price hike yesterday was “another hammer blow” to people.

According to him, 470,000 people are at risk of fuel poverty and nearly 10,000 people are in emergency accommodation, “and it’s getting worse”.

Mr Ryan replied that ‘the crisis in the cost of living is caused by the war’, and he said that ‘Mr Putin’s profits’ had driven prices up.

“It’s a fact – it’s a reality,” he said.

Sinn Féin has again called for an urgent government response to help people cope with rising energy costs.

Finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said without action, low- and middle-income people will bear the brunt of these price increases.

He called on the government to “pressure” the European Commission to allow it to reduce VAT on fuels and said excise duty on heating oil should be reduced from tonight.

Sinn Féin also wants the government to engage with ESB, of which Electric Ireland is a subsidiary, to ensure that all of the company’s profits are passed on to consumers.

Minister Ryan said there was an existential crisis in the country, but the energy credit will be visible in people’s bills from next week.

He said the government should “do a lot more”, but the measures should target low-income households.

He said the government cannot promise that it can cut every tax and bill because it has to pay for services for its own people and for those seeking refuge here.

Speaking later at the energy fair at the RDS in Dublin, Minister Ryan said the number of applications from the public for grants and energy efficiency schemes run by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland had almost tripled .

He said that some of the energy efficiency measures for which subsidies of up to 80% have been announced in recent weeks, in particular the insulation of cavity walls and attics, can be carried out very quickly, at little cost. high, and could generate up to 25% energy savings. for average homes.

Mr Ryan also said he expects the first SEAI “one-stop-shop” for energy upgrades to be officially launched and ready for operation next week.

Government cannot react every week – Taoiseach

The Taoiseach said the government could not respond to rising energy costs and inflation every week.

Micheál Martin said that he cannot continue to seek increases, but that the government can help to the best of its ability within the public treasury to support people and target the budget situation and next year’s budget to help the people and sectors hardest hit.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Micheál Martin said measures to help the hardest hit people and sectors could include expanding fuel allowance eligibility.

The war in Ukraine means countries need to double their investments in renewable energy, he added.

Mr Martin said Ireland is not as dependent on Russian gas and oil as other countries, but will still have to adapt.

He said the carbon tax is a more permanent feature to give the government revenue for retrofit programs, which will ultimately be a better way to lower home bills.

He said there was a 90-day supply of fuel in the country and people should ‘absolutely not’ panic buy, but he warned it could be a longer-term problem than what people are saying. people anticipate.

Meanwhile, St Vincent de Paul’s social justice and policy chief has urged the government to act now and put in place supports for low-income households, before energy costs rise next winter.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Tricia Keilthy said one in six households suffered from fuel poverty before this crisis, and that it is set to rise.

“We really want to see fuel loan eligibility extended to more people who need it,” she said.

“We also want to see the government commit to benchmarking social protection rates against the cost of a minimum standard of living.”

Ms Keilthy said St Vincent de Paul received more than 26,000 calls for help in January and February, with gas and electricity calls up by around 30 per cent.

Additional reporting by Mícheál Lehane, George Lee

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