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Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte)

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Snippet Contents:

Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity market, including disconnections, is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory regulator. I have no statutory function in the matter of disconnections of electricity or gas customers regardless of the supply company involved.
The CER provides quarterly and annual updates on the electricity and gas retail markets, including on disconnections, and further information may be found at:
http://www.cer.ie/en/electricity-retail-market-reports-and-publications.aspx
Nevertheless, the number of disconnections is a matter of concern to me as it is for the Government, the CER, voluntary organisations and suppliers. The rise in numbers in recent years has coincided with the economic recession which has caused customer arrears and debt levels to rise.
In line with the CER’s Code of Practice on disconnection, electricity and gas suppliers must facilitate payment options/plans for domestic customers experiencing genuine hardship and, where appropriate, engage with a money advisor acting on behalf of the customer or a recognised charity. This must include offering the customer a prepayment meter. According to CER’s published report on its website on Electricity and Gas Retail Markets, concerning the period to the end of September 2012, over 11,000 Pay as You Go electricity meters have been installed. That report also states that there are approximately 19,500 token meters in operation. In addition, disconnections may not be initiated where a customer has entered into a payment plan with the supplier and is honouring that arrangement.
I welcome the fact that CER is working with energy suppliers to ensure that they take all reasonable steps to assist customers through this difficult period and that disconnections resulting from genuine inability to pay are minimised, and only occur as a very last resort.
Implementation of the measures set out in the Government’s Affordable Energy Strategy, published last November, is pivotal to protecting the interests of vulnerable customers and improving energy affordability.
In addition, the Government will continue to support the delivery of energy efficiency measures to vulnerable households in 2013. The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme has been allocated Exchequer funding of €18 million for 2013, which is expected to result in upgrades in over 10,000 homes.