Energy Prices: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Paul Murphy on Wednesday, 6 October 2021:
“That Dáil Éireann:
recognises:
— that energy prices are currently rising rapidly worldwide;
— the fact that data centres currently take up 11 per cent of electricity produced in Ireland is adding to upward pressure on energy prices, as predicted by Moody’s in 2018;
— that according to the Economic and Social Research Institute, one in six households were in energy poverty in 2019;
— that according to research published by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in collaboration with RED C Research & Marketing Ltd in March 2021, 19 per cent of people cut back on heating and electricity due to cost, including 42 per cent of those with an illness or disability and 36 per cent of lone parent families;
— that there are between 1,500 and 2,000 excess winter deaths each year, a large percentage of which can be attributed to inadequate heating;
— that many households could be facing an increase in heating and electricity costs of more than €500 annually as a result of the energy price increases;
— that the Fuel Allowance is only paid to 380,000 households, which means a majority 1727 of pensioners as well as low paid workers do not receive it and are not protected from these increases;
— that the low level of energy efficiency of the Irish housing stock means that households are particularly impacted by energy price increases and contributes to high levels of carbon emissions; and
— that the rapid electrification of all sectors of the economy including housing and transport and shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy for electricity generation is crucial if we are to transition to a zero carbon economy;
notes that:
— the deregulation of the energy supply market and the privatisation of Bord Gáis Energy in 2014 was disastrous for ordinary people;
— when the ESB’s statutory requirement to operate on a not-for-profit and break-even basis was repealed in 2001 electricity prices rose dramatically, resulting in energy poverty, disconnections and an annual 2,800 excess of cold-related deaths;
— the Government has committed to increase carbon tax year-on-year, which is currently set at €33.50 per tonne on fuel and is set to increase by €7.50 per tonne next year;
— the Government’s retrofitting programme, which only targeted retrofitting 2,400 social homes in 2021 out of a total stock of over 160,000, is entirely inadequate; and
— carbon taxes are a regressive form of taxation, that disproportionately impact on lower income individuals and families, and are highly ineffective in making the necessary changes to decarbonise our economy; and
calls on the Government to:
— issue an emergency order under section 61 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 in relation to the supply of electricity, gas and home heating oil;
— fix a maximum unit price on electricity, gas and home heating oil under section 62 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007;
— at a minimum, not to increase the carbon tax in Budget 2022, as a step towards replacing the carbon tax with a pollution tax on the profits of big polluters, including the fossil fuel industry, big agri-business and data centres;
— implement a national retrofit plan to retrofit every public building and home in the State by 2030, prioritising local authority housing and the homes of those facing fuel poverty;
— increase the rate of Fuel Allowance by €15 a week and increase the means test for eligibility for Fuel Allowance from €100 a week above the State Contributory Pension to €200 a week above the State Contributory Pension; and
— renationalise the energy supply sector, using a publicly owned and democratically controlled energy company to drive a rapid and just transition to a zero carbon economy, including large scale public investment in offshore wind energy.”
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
“notes that:
— the Government is acutely aware of the recent energy price increases and their impact on households;
— electricity and gas retail price rises, both in Ireland and across Europe, are predominantly related to current international wholesale gas price increases which are in turn reflective of market developments, and these international factors may moderate after this winter;
— Ireland faces particular challenges in this regard as we are a price taker on international markets and that Irish electricity and gas prices have historically been higher than other European Union (EU) countries due to long-standing drivers such as geographical isolation, dispersed population, fossil fuel dependency and small market scale;
— the long-standing policy of successive Governments has been that competitive energy markets result in greater choice for consumers and businesses, in terms of suppliers, products and prices;
— electricity and gas retail markets in Ireland operate within a European regulatory regime wherein electricity and gas markets are competitive;
— operating within this overall EU framework, responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), which was assigned responsibility for the regulation of the Irish electricity and gas markets following the enactment of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999;
— as part of its statutory role, the CRU also has consumer protection functions, including the monitoring of energy retail markets to ensure that competition continues to develop for the benefit of the consumer;
— under the CRU’s consumer protection functions it has provided for priority and vulnerable customers in the various Codes of Practice in the CRU’s Electricity and Gas Suppliers’ Handbook; and
— the CRU is accountable for the performance of its functions, including on consumer protection, to a Joint Committee of the Oireachtas;
further notes that:
— carbon pricing is an essential element of any credible plan to decarbonise the economy; and
— greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and heat generation, energy-intensive industry sectors and commercial aviation within the European Economic Area are priced through the EU’s Emissions Trading System; and
affirms:
— that the best long-term approach for Ireland to insulate consumers from volatility on international wholesale energy markets is to invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and expand interconnection with European and neighbouring markets to deepen the internal market and competition;
— that the Government is committed to supporting households with their energy costs through energy efficiency measures, with a total retrofit budget in excess of €280 million;
— that over three-quarters of this retrofit budget is targeted at either local authority housing or low-income private households through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s energy poverty retrofit schemes;
— that the Government’s ‘Project Ireland 2040 – National Development Plan 2021-2030’ provides for an expanded investment well in excess of a billion euro in retrofit between now and 2025;
— that additionally the Government is committed to ringfencing all additional carbon tax revenue as follows:
— approximately one third will be spent on targeted social welfare and other initiatives to prevent fuel poverty and to ensure a just transition;
— just over half will be spent on socially progressive residential retrofitting programmes; and
— the remainder will be spent on incentives for farmers to farm in a greener and more sustainable way;
— that the Government will provide additional social welfare support in the Budget to protect the most vulnerable against fuel price increases;
— that the following social welfare measures can help to alleviate fuel poverty:
— the Fuel Allowance is a payment of €28 per week for 28 weeks (a total of €784 each year) from October to April, to over 370,000 low income households, at an estimated cost of €300 million in 2021;
— the Household Benefits Package, which consists of a set of allowances which help with the costs of running a household, includes allowances towards covering electricity or gas costs and recipients are paid €35 per month;
— under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme a special heating supplement may be paid to assist people in certain circumstances, and exceptional needs payments may be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost which an applicant is unable to meet from his/her own resources; and
— the Living Alone Allowance, which is targeted at recipients of certain social welfare allowances who live alone and often have significantly higher heating costs, is paid at a rate of €19 per week in addition to a primary social welfare payment such as the State pension;
— that, in the long-term, competition between suppliers is an important means of exerting downward pressure on electricity prices; and
— its commitment to a review of the implementation of the Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty (2016) due to be completed by the end of the year.”
-(Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Ossian Smyth)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the motion regarding energy prices. On Wednesday, 6 October 2021, on the question that the amendment to the motion be agreed to, a division was claimed and in accordance with Standing Order 80(2), that division must be taken now.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 75; Níl, 58; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin; Níl, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Paul Murphy.
Amendment declared carried.
Deputy Holly Cairns did not vote in this division due to an agreed pairing arrangement with Minister Helen McEntee for the duration of the Minister’s maternity leave.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 75; Níl, 58; Staon, 0.

  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin; Níl, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Paul Murphy.
Question declared carried.
Deputy Holly Cairns did not vote in this division due to an agreed pairing arrangement with Minister Helen McEntee for the duration of the Minister’s maternity leave.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Thursday, 7 October 2021.