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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
National
Ferghal Blaney

Energy companies in Ireland accused of 'outrageous profiteering’ amid cost of living crisis

Energy companies have been blasted for “outrageous profiteering” in not passing on falling costs to customers.

Wholesale electricity prices are at their lowest since August last year but the bills sent to homes and businesses continue to hover near record highs, while the firms continue to make huge returns.

The latest statistics from the Central Statistics Office show they were down 52% last month, after falling 27% in September.

READ MORE: Ireland weather: Met Eireann issues yellow warning as four counties set to be battered by 110km/h winds

That means they are 37% cheaper than October last year before the cost of living crisis began.

Yet household electricity bills continue to soar, and the CSO said they climbed by 28% last month, making them 72% dearer than this time 12 months ago.

At the same time, energy companies are reporting billions in profits worldwide.

ESB, the State company and owner of Electric Ireland the largest energy supplier in this country, reported huge gains of €357million for the first half of this year.

The next biggest player is Bord Gais and its profits were up 74% to €39.5million for January to June.

This alleged “profiteering” has been slammed by opposition politicians such as People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy.

He told the Irish Mirror last night: “It is scandalous to see the energy companies continuing to charge enormous prices to ordinary people.

“These revelations show the outrageous profiteering going on in the energy sector.

“Ireland used to have the cheapest energy costs in Europe. This was because we had the publicly-owned ESB operating on a not-for-profit basis.

“And now due to market deregulation, and the war in Ukraine, we have some of the most expensive prices, with customers continuing to be fleeced by profiteering companies who are returning record profits.”

Daragh Cassidy, of consumer watchdog bonkers.ie, warned prices could spike again in the coming months as the nights get colder.

He said: “As we head into winter, a cold spell could see demand for gas and prices shoot back up, which in turn would impact electricity prices.”

The energy companies blame the complex pricing and hedging that dictates gas prices on international markets. A spokesman for the ESB Group said: “We expect this volatility to continue over the coming months given the ongoing uncertainty in the geopolitical situation and international energy markets.

“That said, Electric Ireland will continue to keep our prices under constant review.

“We are committed to providing our customers with the best value possible across a broad range of products.

“To note, ESB’s generation and supply businesses are subject to
regulatory ring fencing provisions which require them to operate
separately so profits from ESB’s generation business cannot be used to offset costs incurred by Electric Ireland.”

A spokesman for Bord Gais said: “Our team of expert trading analysts purchase our energy on the forward market rather than on the more volatile spot market.

“We do this to protect our customers, insofar as we can, from ongoing extreme price volatility of the energy markets.

“For this reason, the recent downward fluctuation in wholesale energy prices is not reflected in current customer prices.

“However, we continue to keep
our rates as competitive as possible. To protect and support our customers during this difficult period, we
have implemented a range of supports, including our Energy Support Fund.”

Meanwhile, the Government cleared the way for windfall taxes on the excess profits of energy companies at its weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday.

It’s estimated they could be worth between €340million and €1.9billion to the State coffers next year. Energy Minister Eamon Ryan told the Irish Mirror he would like to see the proceeds of the windfall taxes ringfenced – they don’t have to be – specifically to help households meet energy bills.

He said: “Yes, but it’s just a question of how you would do that. As I see it this is not being done as a way of raising revenue for the State, for the Exchequer in general.

“It is to give us a pool of funds that will help us to take further measures when it comes to protecting people in an energy crisis.”

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