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Energy Bill 2016 [Seanad]

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Snippet Contents:

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute on the Energy Bill 2016, which has its origins in an earlier Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. I have long called for the reform of the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, but I am strongly opposed to the inclusion of water in the CER's remit and believe the additional powers being given to it, while welcome, may do little to improve competition in the energy sector. In recent Dáil terms I have been an outspoken critic of the weakness of the CER and its lack of action over many years on price transparency and market concentration in energy. The renaming of the CER as the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, provided for in this Bill, seems just an administrative step purely due to the inclusion of the regulation of water services in its remit. Apart from the name change, what will the Bill do to actually strengthen the CER's market regulatory power? There is no provision to include, for example, motor and heating oil in the remit of the CER, despite the fact many of the complaints made by our constituents over the years relate to the failure of oil companies to promptly pass on falling oil and gas wholesale prices to consumers while, of course, any higher spikes in the prices of these fuels were immediately passed on to drivers and households.
The neoliberal model of privatising essential services and turning citizens into customers for those services, pioneered in the United States and the United Kingdom from the early 1980s, is reflected in section 4, or Part 2, of this Bill. The Water Services Act 2013, which I fiercely opposed, expanded the CER's remit to include the so-called "economic regulation of water services". Section 4 now reiterates that change in the alteration to the new title of Commission of Regulation of Utilities, CRU. Like the Water Services Act, this change of role is predicated on the future privatisation of water supplies. The fact the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil Administration, which we now have in this Dáil, has strongly retained the Irish Water company model shows that, despite their protestations, these parties both have future plans to privatise domestic and commercial water supplies. The experience of the gas, electricity and oil markets is clearly to be replicated in water, in the first instance through Irish Water.