EU commissioner ‘didn’t balk’ at Government’s business energy support plan

Varadkar says Coalition still seeking approval for Budget measure to provide help with soaring bills

The Government is still working on getting European Commission approval for its plan to help businesses with energy costs this winter, but a senior commissioner gave a “fair hearing” on the proposal, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

Commission vice-president Margrethe Vestager “didn’t balk” at an aspect of the proposal that seeks to stretch what is currently allowed under European Union (EU) state aid rules the Minister for Enterprise added.

The €1.25 billion Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS) was announced in the budget last month.

Qualifying businesses will be provided with up to 40 per cent of the increase in electricity or gas bills up to €10,000 per month under the scheme to be administered by the Revenue Commissioners.


However the TBESS is subject to approval under the EU’s state aid rules.

Mr Varadkar told the Oireachtas Enterprise Committee that he discussed the issue with Ms Vestager — who has responsibility for competition — during her visit to Dublin last week.

Fianna Fáil senator Ollie Crowe raised the issue, asking about the timetable for the introduction of the TBESS “so first payments will be issued to businesses as soon as possible”.

Mr Varadkar said the plan is for the scheme to be up and running by the end of November and it will be backdated to September “so businesses can bank on that”.

He added: “We don’t have state aid clearance yet.”

The EU’s temporary crisis framework — allowing member states to bring in special measures to deal with the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine — is only currently due to run until the end of the year.

Mr Varadkar said the Government wants the TBESS to last until at least the end of February.

He also said that under EU rules, such refunds are also supposed to be limited to 30 per cent and “we have kind of stretched it to 40″.

The Minister told the committee: “I met with commissioner Vestager last week as did the Taoiseach and as did Minister [for Finance Paschal] Donohoe.

“I didn’t get any cast iron commitments but I think we got a very fair hearing and a very good hearing and certainly she indicated that that temporary crisis framework would be extended well into 2023.”

Mr Varadkar added that Ms Vestager “didn’t balk at the idea that we would go to 40 per cent rather than 30 per cent”.

He said the TBESS “doesn’t have state aid clearance yet and we’re working on that.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times