Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has said there must be a review of the role of the Energy Regulator to strengthen the protections in place for consumers in Mayo ahead of the sale of Bord Gáis Energy (BGE ) next year. Deputy Calleary said the announcement that Bord Gáis Energy is to be sold to Centrica, which operates British Gas, will cause concern as prices have been increasing for consumers in the UK.
Deputy Calleary commented: “The Government has said the sale of Bord Gáis Energy is expected to be completed in the first half of next year. I think there is a perfect opportunity now to review the role and functions of the Energy Regulator in the market before that happens. We can strengthen the hand of consumers in Mayo and ensure that the regulator has a much stronger focus on customer protection. Households have already had to take three major gas price increases in two years and gas bills have jumped by €300 per household per year under the Fine Gael and Labour Government. I do not want to see a vacuum develop here where the process to sell Bord Gáis Energy goes ahead, the preferred bidder is standing over price increases for consumers in the UK market, and Minister Pat Rabbitte refuses to give concrete assurances to households in Mayo and across the country. As the retail arm of Bord Gáis, BGE comes with 600,000 gas customers and 300,000 electricity customers for its new owners. There is no doubt that it is a lucrative asset for the Centrica consortium, all the more reason to ensure there is an appropriate regulation regime in place before the sale is finalised. We have questioned the cynical timing of the Government’s announcement about the sale of Bord Gáis Energy and the need for it to go ahead at all, given that we believe it is being sold for less than it is worth and that Ireland’s EU/IMF programme is now over.
“We believe the driving force behind this decision is simply Fine Gael ideology. I believe the sale of Bord Gáis Energy is a mistake and it is not too late for the Government to reverse this decision. However if Fine Gael and Labour press ahead with selling this well-run, valuable, State asset at a fire-sale price the very least they can do is ensure its customers in Mayo are not left to the mercy of international owners swooping in to make huge profits off the back of cash-strapped households. Fianna Fáil is currently looking at the role of the Energy Regulator and other such regulators and will bring forward proposals in the new year that will outline a greater consumer protection regime,” he concluded.