By Robert Cosgrave
A study from the ESRI in June reported that in the south of Ireland, up to 43% of all households are in energy poverty. When that report was heard in the Electric Ireland boardroom (whose parent company ESB made profits of €679 million in 2021 up 10% on 2020) it was evidently taken as a challenge – ‘we can get those figures up’. Starting on 1 August, Electric Ireland is providing customers with the bank holiday gift of a 29.2% hike in the price of gas, and a 10.9% hike for electricity!
This will mark the fourth such price hike since 2021, bringing the total price hike since last year from the company to 67%! They are not alone in this, other companies in the energy sector such as Bord Gáis, whose parent company, the Britain-based Centrica, made profits of £948 million last year, has already brought prices up in April by 27% for electricity and 39% for gas, and it is likely they will follow Electric Ireland’s course in raising prices again soon enough. Of course as we get closer to the winter the energy pressures felt by working-class people will become even worse.
These price hikes come on top of a worsening cost of living crisis, with the worst inflation since 1984 at 9.1% in June. This is hitting working-class people in the pockets on all fronts – between utilities, petrol, food and rent to name a few. The government, which under pressure has brought the budget forward to September, has promised nothing more than cuts to the tax rate of electricity prices, and another €200 energy credit for households to go straight into the pockets of the energy companies. They have no interest in stopping the price-gouging of the electricity companies – or any other profiteering companies which are the actual drivers of inflation.
Take profit out
Instead of leaving electricity provision to the private market (which incidentally didn’t electrify Ireland in the first place, the state did) the profit motive has to be taken out of it entirely. This begins with the nationalisation of all energy companies operating here. With a publicly owned, democratically-run energy sector we could drastically reduce the costs faced by working-class people and massively speed up the transition from fossil fuels and to renewable energy, creating thousands of high-quality green jobs for workers across the country.
For the capitalist establishment, including all the main political parties, this would be intolerable because the right of the energy companies’ to profit is more important to them, but for working-class people the choice is clear.