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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — Energy Costs Emergency Measures

I am glad the Bill, which I welcome, is before the House. It allows for money to be put back into households around the country and it will be received gladly. This is a technical Bill to establish the new electricity credit scheme. The big question in the minds of many leading up to the Bill and when the scheme was announced in the budget is whether households that are on pay-as-you-go arrangements with their energy supplier will be included in the scheme and benefit from it. It was a relief to hear the Minister of State laying out last Tuesday that the scheme will include customers with pay-as-you-go meters and will help them, alongside bill-pay customers, with their electricity costs.

I understand the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, has been in communication with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications on the difficulty in paying any additional credits to pay-as-you-go customers due to the inability of the metering system to provide the data to identify those people. Will the Minister of State advise the House as to whether that issue has been resolved and, if so, by what mechanism will pay-as-you-go energy consumers receive moneys under the scheme? We cannot have a situation whereby households utilising those meters have to go begging for their credits. It cannot be that the onus is on them to ask for credits when the meter is running out.

There were calls on Tuesday in the Lower House for the fees for switching from pay-as-you-go arrangements to bill pay to be eliminated for everybody. The Minister of State stated: "It is free for people to change from what are sometimes known as hardship meters to a bill-pay option." We must ensure this is the case for all energy providers. I urge all 350,000 householders who are currently using a pay-as-you-go meter to switch to bill pay for the next few months, providing it is free to do so, if it would serve to streamline the receipt of the energy credits provided under the scheme. That wold be worthwhile. These are the most vulnerable energy customers. They have already paid €100 to get the meter in and they pay a higher rate than bill-pay customers. The latter pay 43.27 cent per kilowatt, while the former pay 46.23 cent. Pay-as-you-go customers are being hit all the time and it is absolutely crucial to get the credits to them.

I welcome and support the Bill. However, it is not as if we did not see this issue coming down the line. I would like to hear the Government's plan for energy supply in the medium term. What are we to do before the Minister's army of wind turbines is standing tall? The curtailment of fossil fuel energy production in order to reach climate objectives prior to the establishment of a viable sustainable alternative is a policy of utter foolishness. As always, it is the people who pay the price. We must be realistic about the timeline for developing our green energy infrastructure. We cannot stand by and watch people suffering in the meantime. I would very much appreciate the Minister of State's thoughts on this.

On the comments that have been made regarding the war, our country is neutral and we have always been known as peacemakers. I urge those in power in the State, whether it be the Taoiseach or the Minister for Defence, to try to get people around the table to stop this war.

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