'Stupid' to dispose of utilities - Ryan


Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan warned today that it would be “stupid” to dispose of State companies such as the ESB, Eirgrid and Bord Gáis.

A group led by economist Colm McCarthy is reviewing the State sector, including the ESB, Irish Rail, RTÉ and the airport companies, with a view to establishing which of them could be sold to raise cash for the Exchequer. The group is due to report by the end of the year.

Mr Ryan argued that the way in which energy utilities such as the ESB, Eirgrid and Bord Gáis have adapted from the traditional model to a new way of doing business driven by information technology and advances in the use of renewable energy meant that they are more valuable now than in the past.

“This is the new economy, we would be stupid to throw it away,” he told a conference on the future of State-owned enterprises organised by Public Affairs Ireland in Dublin this morning.

Mr Ryan said that the State’s energy companies were both profitable and were investing in the Irish economy.

The Minister pointed out that the ESB plans to invest €22 billion over the next decade, while Bord Gáis is investing €2.5 billion, national grid operator, Eirgrid €4 billion and Bord na Móna €1.5 billion.

“We know that those companies can make those investments,” he said. “That €30 billion plan is credible and long term.”

Similarly, he told the audience that the companies earned €700 million in profits last year and paid a total of €320 million in dividends to the State, and they employ 11,000 people.

He said that the work by national grid operator, Eirgrid, to develop systems to accommodate more wind-generated power on the country’s electricity networks and the steps taken by the ESB to develop the use of electric cars, were attracting international attention.