Responsibility for the regulation of the gas or electricity markets is a matter for the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). One of its statutory functions is to carry out market monitoring to ensure that competition continues to develop and that customers benefit from competition. Two reports published by the regulator last year concluded that Irish energy markets are competitive, with the most recently available EU comparable electricity and gas supplier switching data also pointing towards a competitive Irish market. The CRU is an independent statutory body, and solely accountable to a committee of the Oireachtas for the performance of its functions.
The regulation of retail market prices for electricity in Ireland ended in 2011 and for gas prices in 2014. The Government has no statutory function in the monitoring or setting of electricity prices, with the main thrust of Government policy on energy costs focused on the competitive market and supports for energy efficiency. Government policy has supported competition to drive down prices, and data from approved price comparison sites (www.bonkers.ie and www.switcher.ie) shows that consumers can make significant savings by switching energy suppliers.
Consistent with European energy policy, the electricity and gas markets in Ireland are commercial, liberalised, and competitive. The position of successive Governments has been that competitive energy markets result in greater choice for consumers and businesses, in terms of suppliers, products and prices. Competition exerts downward pressure on suppliers’ prices.
Section 10A of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999, as amended, sets out the procedure under which the Minister may give “general policy directions”. The legislation sets out details on the tasks and inter-alia timelines, consultation requirements with the independent regulator and Oireachtas, and identifies restrictions on the areas where such directions may not be given.
Energy markets in Ireland operate within a European regulatory regime in which member states must guarantee the independence of National Regulatory Authorities, which are expressively forbidden from taking direct instructions from government, or any public body, when carrying out their regulatory tasks. The regime also restricts policy directions in the form of general policy guidelines in certain areas that are prescribed regulatory duties and powers in the EU Third Energy Package, specifically in Directive 2009/72/EC concerning common rules for the internal market in electricity. A policy direction in this matter is therefore not being considered.