Work ongoing to help reduce electricity bills in new year, Tánaiste says

Decision over how to help people facing rising energy costs expected in coming weeks

Leo Varadkar: ‘We would hope to make a decision  in the near future so that people will see the effect of that in the bills they receive in the new year being a little bit less than expected.’ Photograph: iStock

Leo Varadkar: ‘We would hope to make a decision in the near future so that people will see the effect of that in the bills they receive in the new year being a little bit less than expected.’ Photograph: iStock

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the Government will take action to help people with rising electricity bills with a decision being made in the coming weeks.

Mr Varadkar was responding to Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Thursday, who said the Government needed to “wake up” and that people were suffering as a result of energy prices.

The Donegal South-West TD referenced the latest consumer price index from the Central Statistics Office which showed that inflation rose to a 20-year high of 5.3 per cent in November on the back of soaring energy prices and supply chain disruption linked to Covid.

The main driver of higher energy costs was the price of electricity, which was up by an average of 20.9 per cent on this time last year, while gas prices rose by 26 per cent. Home heating oil was up 71.4 per cent.

“Across Europe, we can see that governments are responding to soaring energy prices and they’re doing that to shield households,” Mr Doherty said. “In Spain we see that VAT bath and electricity bills were slashed by 11 per cent and in Italy the government launched a package worth €6.2 billion to protect households from raising energy prices to the end of the year.

“But this Government has done nothing, despite the fact that we in this State have the highest energy prices in Europe and we in Sinn Féin are calling on your Government to wake up.”

The Tánaiste said the cost of living in Ireland was rising very fast and prices are now increasing at a rate of more than 5 per cent a year.

“We know it’s very difficult for a lot of families who are trying to make ends meet and trying to find enough money to pay the bills at the end of the week or the end of the month,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said the Government was taking action which should see inflation come down next year including pay increases, welfare and pension increases, reduction in personal taxation and help with the cost of living for a number of services.

‘European toolbox’

Mr Varadkar said in relation to energy prices, the Government is aware of “the European toolbox and the options that are available to us to assist families and households in particular with the high cost of energy”.

“That’s currently under consideration at the moment and we would certainly like to do something that would help with electricity bills and maybe gas bills as well,” he said.

He said the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath and Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan are “working on that at the moment”.

“We would hope to be in a position to make a decision on that in the near future so that people will see the effect of that in the bills that they receive in the new year being a little bit less than perhaps they expected,” he said.

Mr Varadkar added: “It’s very much the view of Government that we need to take action and do something to help people with their energy bills in the new year.

“We’re particularly focusing on electricity because that’s the bill that everyone gets and something that people have to use and you don’t have any choice as to what type of energy to use, it’s what comes in on the wires.”