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Price rise ESB's 7,800 staff to keep electricity bills discount as customers face huge hike

The semi-state's 7,800 staff are still entitled to a €670 discount a year on their electricity bills, nearly half the average annual bill

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Staff at the state-owned ESB continue to get massive discounts on their electricity bills, despite its energy supply subsidiary announcing double-digit price hikes.

The semi-state's 7,800 staff are still entitled to a €670 discount a year on their electricity bills, nearly half the average annual bill.

ESB's Electric Ireland subsidiary is pushing up unit electricity prices by 23pc from next month. The standing charges are going up by 36pc.

It is the third electricity price rise in 18 months.

Gas unit prices are going up by 25pc, with the standing charge going up by the same percentage.

The combined rises mean annual electricity costs will have shot up by €500 for the average household over the past 18 months.

It comes just weeks after the ESB Group reported bumper operating profits of almost €700m for last year.

Asked about the huge price rise at a time when its parent group, ESB, was making massive profits, the company said the €679m profit figure was before tax, exceptionals and interest.

After-tax profits came in at €191m and it is paying the Exchequer a €126m dividend.

A leading consumer advocate has accused the company of "profiteering" by pushing up the standing charges by such a large amount.

The semi-state's operating profits for last year were an increase of 10pc on the 2020 figure.

Over that period electricity prices will have gone up by €500, and gas by €320, according to calculations by price comparison site Bonkers.ie.

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Electric Ireland is the largest energy supplier to households in Ireland with more than 1.1 million electricity customers.

Electric Ireland's parent company, ESB, admitted its 7,800 staff get a 55pc discount on the first 1,000 units of electricity on the bill they receive every two months.

Few households would use more than 1,000 units every two months.

There are no staff discounts for standing charges, or the PSO levy. However, the unit price discounts work out at a reduction of €676 a year, including Vat, for staff in the cost of electricity, according to calculations by Bonkers.ie.

Asked about the massive staff discounts and the fact that ESB staff are among the best paid in the State, the company said "its capability rests with its 7,800-plus employees".

"ESB offers a competitive reward package to attract and retain the brightest talent, which will be required to support the delivery of its 2040 Net Zero strategy to assist Ireland in meeting its climate goals."

There are no plans to cut the staff electricity discount deal.

Chairman of the Consumers' Association of Ireland Michael Kilcoyne said he could see a reason for increasing electricity and gas unit rates, but there was no justification to hike the standing charges. He called on the Government to change the law so the setting of standing charges can be regulated.

"This is opportunistic profiteering. I can't understand how Electric Ireland can justify increasing the standing charges, even if there is some excuse for raising unit rates," he said.

He said electricity and gas were essential services and called for a change in the rules to allow the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) to be able to approve or turn down standing charge rises. The CRU has no role in regulation unit rates or standing charges imposed on residential customers.

It is the fourth energy price rise announced by various suppliers in this market this year.

Asked for a justification for the standing charge rise, Electric Ireland said it is a fixed daily charge included in all electricity and gas price plans.

Standing charges contribute to the fixed costs associated with providing its customers with their electricity and gas supply, it said.

"We have taken the decision to proportionally increase our standing charge by a greater amount than our unit rate, to allow our customers to continue to use the electricity at the lowest unit rate possible."

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