Published: Mon, 21 March 2016
Calls for greater clarity for consumers on energy bills
MEP for Ireland South and leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament, Seán Kelly, has been appointed as lead negotiator and spokesman on European energy consumer issues on behalf of his group, the European People’s Party. The talks underway in Brussels, aim to deliver a “new deal” for energy consumers and seek to increase the transparency of prices and better empower consumers to lower their energy bills.
Mr. Kelly, Ireland’s only full member of the Parliament’s Committee on Industry Research and Energy (ITRE), spoke of the work as being a “massive opportunity” to ease the burden on already stretched household budgets.
“Years of austerity have been tough on Irish families. Even though our economy is now growing rapidly, the majority of households are yet to feel the benefit – it has not yet made its way into Irish homes. One way we can spread economic growth around the country is by putting money back in people’s pockets.
“Taking measures to lower household energy bills will help us to do this. Not only would people be better off, but local businesses reap the benefits of increased local spending, leading to growth and job creation.”
The discussions on energy consumers come at a time when EU policy makers take the steps to put in place a European Energy Union – simply put, extending the Single European Market (SEM) to energy. Mr. Kelly noted that while the benefits of the Energy Union for Europe are clear in terms of supply security, it was through increased competition that the average household would really feel the benefit:
“This is all about empowering the consumer to control their energy use and lower their bill. The Irish market is already well on its way to being competitive, and we want to continue on this path – yet we still have the third highest electricity prices in Europe.
“A well-functioning, competitive, EU-wide market that encourages cost-transparency is the best way to bring favourable conditions to consumers. That is what we need to deliver.”
Mr. Kelly noted that transparency is a key theme of the work and something that he will push in the upcoming meetings to finalise the European Parliament’s position. He has called for the creation of new platforms to enable consumers to compare the different elements of energy tariffs. These would be operated by energy departments, energy regulators, or specifically created public entities.
“We need to ensure that consumers know what they are paying for and have a choice. I am calling for the creation of independent platforms that would provide detailed information on the makeup of the prices that are offered by different providers.”
“We have price comparison websites already, but I think we should go a step further – independent platforms that provide specific and detailed information on the proportion of taxes, levies and add-ons contained in the bill.
“This would enable the consumer to easily seek more suitable offers, be more informed about what is contained in the price they pay, and therefore crucially, chose what they want to be paying for.
“Ease of switching and increased transparency brings more competition to the market. This is a win-win for everyone. Getting this right will put money back in the pockets of the household consumer”, he concluded.