'Immoral' ESB profits criticised


SEANAD:THE ENERGY regulator needed to take cognisance of the “immoral” level of profits being made by the ESB, Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (FG) said.

He was responding to Fianna Fáil leader in the House Darragh O’Brien who said this semi-State was projected to record a profit of more than €500 million this year, yet it was still lumping price increase after price increase upon hard-pressed customers.

It was unacceptable that the ESB was not willing to review its most recently announced price rise of almost 6 per cent. Figures for last year showed that 315,000 customers had had to enter into special payment arrangements with the company because they were unable to meet their electricity bills. The figure for this year was not yet known. There had been no pay cuts in the ESB and no imposition of a pensions levy. The pay and conditions were the same as they had been prior to the onset of the recession, if not better. Pay increases had actually been paid.

How in God’s name could the ESB be allowed to increase prices three times in the last six months when the company was so profitable?

Mr O’Brien said he wanted to know how Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte viewed this. Had he been in touch with the energy regulator or the ESB, or was he just going to remain silent on this issue? Seán Barrett (Ind) said the ESB chief executive, by permission of the regulator, earned about four times the salary of the Taoiseach. That was wrong.

It was worrying that those who had allowed a seemingly very slack regulation of electricity were about to become the regulators for water consumption. He hoped the head of the water industry would not earn a similarly high salary.

Paul Bradford (FG) said there was an urgent need to address the cost of living. At a time when wages had taken a huge hit and taxpayers were facing a heavy burden, it should not be acceptable that companies providing necessary utilities were increasing their profits at the expense of the taxpaying public.