NI Board Seeks Clarification on Power Costing Authorities in Meeting with Utilities Regulator
Fermanagh and Omagh council are due to meet the chief executive of the utility regulator amid soaring energy costs.
last month, council members sought clarification on whether increased powers had been given to the regulator due to rising electricity prices.
Chief Executive John French wrote to the council explaining that statutory powers have not changed and that engagement with the Department of the Economy is ongoing around the implementation of an energy strategy, which includes the guarantee that the powers remain fit for purpose.
He offered to meet elected officials, adding: “We are best placed to protect consumers in the energy transition”.
Independent adviser Emmet McAleer said the correspondence was disappointing and offered to accept the offer of a meeting.
He said: “I question the idea behind this role because apparently it’s nothing more than signing those raises. We need clarity around powers.
“These increases seem endless, even if the price of crude oil is not more expensive than in 2008, yet the price at the pump is twice as expensive. You have to ask questions. »
Ulster Unionist councilor Bert Wilson said: ‘The cost and hardship for families takes a huge chunk out of wages. There are opportunities for wind turbines, and while some councilors may disagree with them, there must be a cheaper source of energy. We have to do something.
Sinn Fein councilor Patrick Withers said: “There is no doubt that prices have soared. It is clear that there are huge profits to be made by these companies. There’s no executive, thanks to the DUP, with £435m who could help people, but it can’t be done. It is deeply frustrating and disappointing.
Independent Advisor Josephine Deehan described the tone of the response as “a bit tolerant and complacent”.
She said: “The regulator says it is best placed to protect consumer interests and engage in dialogue to ensure its powers are fit for purpose. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“The cost of energy has increased so much that it is unaffordable. The situation is totally unsustainable and will create difficulties, especially as winter approaches. It is a critical situation that can even cost lives.
Independent adviser Donal O’Cofaigh said: “The energy sector should not have been privatised. People really pay through the nose. It is not justified. The UK as a whole is in no way dependent on Russian oil and gas imports.
“The prices are as high as they are because the industry can make it so. If it were a national enterprise, subject to the democratic will of the people, prices could be kept as low as we would like. It doesn’t have to be profit-driven.
Proposing that the council contact Westminster suggesting the nationalization of energy, Mr O’Cofaigh added: “Nothing is done. I also saw the utility regulator as a fragile nod to some form of accountability. We cannot sit idly by in this situation. »
Ulster Unionist councilor Alex Baird made reference to fuel cost hikes and also offered to write to Westminster.
He said: “The only conclusion I can come to is business profit. I may be cynical, but I think the government is more than happy to see the base price go up and rake in the VAT. But I guess Brexit and Covid-19 have to be paid for.
All the proposals were adopted without opposition.