Electricity proposal differs little from original

 

Final proposals for the sale of surplus ESB power to private suppliers are largely unchanged from a summary paper published earlier this month by the Commissioner for Electricity Regulation, Mr Tom Reeves.

The original plan was the subject of a High Court challenge by an electricity company, ePower, which applied last week for a judicial review of the proposal. The case was adjourned on Monday until this morning pending publication of Mr Reeves's new paper.

EPower - backed by Esat's founder, Mr Denis O'Brien - said it would study the plan before deciding its next course of action. It declined to comment yesterday.

The company had claimed that Mr Reeves's original proposal to limit the supply of "top-up" power available to the independent sector and increase the tariffs charged by the ESB "made a mockery" of competition.

But Mr Reeves's latest paper said the Commission never intended "radically" to alter the trading arrangements in a manner that would reduce or prevent competition in supply.

As in the summary paper, he cited a "letter for clarification" from the Department of Public Enterprise which stated that the top-up regime was never intended to provide "unlimited" power to the independent sector on demand. "Top-up is intended to constitute back-up to primary sources of supply that are already available to the independent sector," the paper said.

EPower plans to develop a power station, in joint venture with US businessman Mr Larry Thomas and BP Amoco, but it sources most of its power from the ESB because it does not yet generate its own electricity.

The company has claimed that ESB tariffs proposed in Mr Reeves's first paper were more expensive than the rates paid by the State-owned company's own industrial customers.

As in the original document, the new paper said independent suppliers would have access to top-up prices for amounts of power up to 5 per cent of their supply contracts. But in the new system, this will no longer apply to suppliers of wind-produced electricity.

For power exceeding this entitlement, suppliers must pay a "secondary" price calculated on the basis of a multiplier of the standard top-up rate.

In the new paper, Mr Reeves proposed a multiplier of 1.15 for power supplied between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays in September and October. The original multiplier proposed was 1.2.

From November, Mr Reeves proposed a 3.6 multiplier for top-up supplied from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 1.7 for all other hours between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. The original paper proposed a 3.6 multiplier at "weekday peak hours" and 1.2 for the remainder.

But Mr Reeves said he would seek a "more enduring solution" by November 1st. Discussions with the ESB on an auction of virtual capacity on its network were being finalised, he said. "It is the Commission's intention, under the interim arrangement, to provide suppliers with a secondary price which is, on average, broadly in line with the average non-green [auction] price that may be available."