Energy credit, temperature settings on Cabinet agenda
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said there will be another form of universal energy credit and new measures for small business in this month’s Budget to help people manage increases in the cost of living.
The Cabinet is meeting at Dublin Castle this morning to discuss an energy reduction plan for the public sector, Budget 2023, and EU proposals for a windfall tax to reduce electricity prices.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath also said another energy credit is an “option on the table” to help people quickly to “make a real difference”.
Speaking as he arrived for the Cabinet meeting, he said some measures will be targeted in terms of social welfare and government payment schemes.
However, he added, the Government is also considering schemes with a “broader application” for people who are above the eligibility threshold for State benefits.
Mr Ryan’s plan would set a maximum temperature limit of 19C degrees in public buildings, consolidate staff inside buildings to reduce heating bills, and ensure that all lights are turned off after work.
There is also due to be a public information campaign urging householders and business to avoid, as much as possible, using electricity at peak times.
Speaking as he arrived at Dublin Castle, Minister Ryan said there will be extensive supports in the Budget to help people get through this difficult time.
“There will be an ongoing campaign to reduce usage and to save money to manage this wartime situation, which is what we are in [with] energy used as a weapon of war,” he said.
Read more: 7 energy saving measures Ireland could take right now
It is expected the ministers will also look ahead to the emergency meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels this Friday, where topics such as price caps and windfall taxes will be discussed.
Minister Ryan predicted on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night that the windfall tax plan will be passed – in which what he termed “excess revenues” will be taken from energy companies, who are not generating electricity from gas, and used to off-set price hikes.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett has said renewable energy companies are recording “obscene” profits while increasing the cost of energy.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said much of the energy produced in Ireland is not affected by international gas prices or the war in Ukraine and called for the nationalisation of the energy sector.
Deputy Boyd Barrett said the argument for privatising energy companies in Ireland was that it would lead to a reduction in energy costs for consumers, but “the opposite has happened.”
He called for a cap to bring energy prices down to those seen at the end of 2021 and said a “broad package” of measures that PBP proposes would cost €15 billion.
Responding to reports in one newspaper, attributed to an anonymous Government source, about concerns people will stop paying their bills if prices get too high, Mr Boyd Barrett said he believes people would be “entirely justified” in doing so, but said for many this course of action would not be viable.
“Most of the poorest people have pay as you go meters, so if they didn’t pay, they wouldn’t have any heating or electricity.
“We need to see mass mobilisation and people power pressure on this Government to take much more radical measures to address the cost of living crisis.”
Speaking on the same programme, Dr Paul Deane of the MaRei Centre at University College Cork said the energy crisis will continue to deepen into winter.
He said the important message for householders to understand how they can reduce their discretionary energy use, adding “we’re not asking for people to come home and sit in the dark between the hours of 5 and 7pm.
“It’s something like the dishwasher or the tumble dryer. If you’ve come home from work and maybe cycled home, you need an electric charge if you can think about doing those things later.
“So it’s not so much about stopping your energy use but about being smart about those discretionary loads and using them at different times. If you can do that that would help us at a national level.”