Electric Ireland should be called to book by the government over price hikes, says RGDATA

“Make no mistake, local shops will go out of business if the government does not rethink its approach before April," said Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts

Company is directly undermining government energy support scheme, says retailer representative group

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7 December 2022 | 0

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RGDATA, the organisation representing independently owned community grocery retailers, has called on the government to intervene and block the Electric Ireland price increases due to take effect next month.

The trade organisation has claimed that the pending Electric Ireland increases will directly obliterate the benefit of support being provided to SMEs through the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme.

RGDATA director general, Tara Buckley said that it is nonsensical for one arm of the State to be giving support to manage energy costs, while another State-owned body is hiking electricity costs to unprecedented levels.

“If the government can block toll price increases by private companies, they must have the ability to block electricity price hikes by a State-owned entity – Electric Ireland,” Buckley said.

“It is completely farcical that in a week where the government is advising businesses to sign up for the TBESS scheme, a State-owned company, Electric Ireland is effectively grabbing the benefit of these increases by jacking up rates. The government cannot stand by as a passive bystander on this issue and must intervene and block this increases immediately.”

Buckley added that it is not an option for the government to decline to get involved in blocking the cost hikes – and pointed out a range of different instances where government pressure managed to stop corporate moves that were not in the interests of consumers.

“This past week we saw the government act to block increases in toll road charges which were sought by toll operators,” Buckley said. “We also saw the government force AIB to abandon plans to restrict services available from branches earlier this year. Surely the government has the wherewithal to compel Electric Ireland, a subsidiary of the State owned ESB to stop hiking prices. Otherwise the government supports for business will merely flow straight into the coffers of one State owned company from the Exchequer.”

RGDATA said that it is already clear that the current level of State support for SMEs to cope with energy costs would be inadequate and that new measures will be required as a matter of urgency.

The organisation welcomed the TBESS but said that it needs to be backdated to earlier in the year when prices started to increase and the current cap of €10,000 per month support needs to be revised upwards to take account of recent cost increases and the increased demand load over the winter period.

“Make no mistake – otherwise viable businesses will close if the government does not step up with effective supports for business to tackle energy costs. Most of the retailers that RGDATA represents have seen energy costs rise by over 300% since March 2022. They cannot absorb these hikes and need help to make it through the current energy challenges. If that help is not forthcoming, then many shops and jobs will not survive,” Buckley concluded.

RGDATA has said it will send an updated Action Plan on energy costs to the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar and Damien English, the Minister of State with responsibility for the Retail Sector.

The association pointed out that there are a range of interventions that the government can take which will make a decisive difference in tackling energy costs for SMEs.

 

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