The electricity and gas markets are commercial, liberalised and competitive and operate within national and European regulatory regimes. I have no statutory function in the setting or review of electricity or gas prices. Price setting by all electricity suppliers, including the ESB's Electric Ireland, is a commercial and operational matter for the companies in question.
Responsibility for electricity and gas market regulation is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, which is an independent statutory body. The CER ceased regulating retail electricity prices in 2011 and retail gas prices in 2014. Business and domestic customers may avail of competitive offerings from a number of supply companies. The competitive energy market results in choice for consumers and businesses in terms of suppliers, products and prices, exerting downward pressure on prices. Under various relevant statutory instruments, the CER carries out statutory market monitoring functions and has responsibility for ensuring the market operates competitively for the benefit of the consumer.
On 29 April last, Electric Ireland announced a 6% reduction in its unit rate for domestic electricity consumers and on 18 May, the company announced that its customers could avail of additional savings of up to 8.5%. On 1 May 2016, SSE Airtricity announced a 5% electricity and 5% gas price cut and an 8% reward discount by moving to direct debit and e-billing. While I do not have a statutory role in the setting or review of energy prices by energy supply companies, I welcome these reductions.
The level of profit in ESB fluctuates due to market forces over which I, as Minister, have no control, nor do I have any function in the matter of the regulation of electricity or gas prices. The figure of €635 million does not take into account ESB debt and taxes paid to the State. The company's profit for 2015 after tax is €286 million. It is vital that the ESB is resourced to enable it to reinvest in maintaining generation capacity and the electricity network. There is no question of the ESB being privatised.