Appetite for clean energy is there, but our rate of progress is far too slow.
It’s time to shake up the energy market in Ireland.
Companies need to take direct charge of generating and using their own clean and renewable energy. Expecting traditional utility companies to help in this transition is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.
The clean energy revolution has been a long time coming. This country is moving too slowly and too cautiously on the climate change agenda and everybody is expecting someone else to solve the issue.
The problem in the energy market is two-fold: in the first instance, our large energy suppliers are overcharging customers. Some of it is because they don’t need or want to change their existing business model. This is particularly exacerbated by the government allowing them to simply pass on rising costs for regulation to the end user.
Take the example of electricity. Last year, the annual Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy charged to Irish customers, which supports the generation of electricity from sustainable, renewable and indigenous sources, was just under €40 per year. However, this will increase to just under €90 this year. This is a shocking increase of 130pc.
It’s almost like we’ve come to expect being ripped off. When we submitted our current radio ad to a national broadcaster this week, they would not believe there was “absolutely no upfront cost” to our customers. We had to explain our model in detail to show them that we don’t charge customers anything for installation and set-up, just so they’d play the ad.
As if this weren’t enough, customers of ESB – our biggest electricity supplier – will face an increase of 3.4pc in the unit price of their electricity this year. All this while they made profits in 2020 of €616m. Admittedly, this was before exceptional items that were written off last year, such as €188m for a power plant in Manchester. As the ESB is 95pc owned by the Irish government, this means that the Irish taxpayer paid for the write-off of a bad investment in an English power plant. If the ESB are going to make bad investments, shouldn’t they at least be in Ireland?
Indeed, there are a number of large corporates which have made commitments to only buy renewables in Ireland, so are these the same renewables that Irish customers are subsidising through the PSO levy?