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Peak-time energy prices could be 50 per cent higher under new plan to tackle spiralling crisis

Eamon Ryan TD Minister for the Environment and Transport. The move would incentivise households to use high-energy appliances late in the evening or overnight when cheaper rates apply.

Caroline O’Doherty

Electricity customers face paying up to 50pc more for power at peak times under plans to limit the impact of the energy crisis.

The move is being considered by the Government and the energy regulator in response to soaring gas and electricity prices.

Almost 750,000 households where smart meters have been installed could be put on mandatory new ‘time of use’ tariffs.

Data protection issues currently require customers to consent to these tariffs as smart meters log household activity, and only around 10pc have made the switch.

Energy Minister Eamon Ryan said he was talking to the Data Protection Commissioner about dropping the requirement for consent.

“Such is the urgency and such is the benefit, we are going to look at that being mandatory and using an opt-out rather than a voluntary approach,” he said.

The move would incentivise households to use high-energy appliances late in the evening or overnight when cheaper rates apply.

The flip side is that they would be charged more for use at peak time when most activity is concentrated out of habit and convenience. Electricity providers charge smart tariff customers 15-50pc more during the 5pm-7pm peak.

Mr Ryan said gas-powered electricity generation plants were having to be switched on specifically to meet peak-time demand and with gas prices rocketing, demand had to be reduced.

Daragh Cassidy, of bill comparison website Bonkers.ie, said any move to push people on to time-of-use tariffs would have to come with support around how to use them.

“People would need clear information as to what the charges are and how to make the best use of them, otherwise they could end up paying significantly more and not actually change their electricity use habits which would benefit no one.”

The minister was speaking after Electric Ireland announced price rises of 23-25pc from May.

Mr Ryan defended the price rise, despite Electric Ireland’s parent company, state-owned ESB, making profits of €679m last year.

He said the company had hedged against gas price increases by bulk-buying in advance but stocks bought under that arrangement were gone and they were now buying in a market where prices had increased five-fold.

“ESB did not put up prices because they wanted to. It was a necessity as for every other energy company,” he said.

A one-off €200 energy rebate for householders will come off bills from next week.

Mr Ryan said the Government was looking at other measures and would ask the ESB to help but any further measures would have to target those at risk of fuel poverty.

He did not specify what measures, but did not rule out a reduction in national speed limits to encourage energy-efficient driving and achieve a reduction in diesel and petrol use, the price of which has also soared.

The International Energy Agency recommended such a move. Mr Ryan said it would be most effective if adopted as an EU-wide measure.

The minister also said he would not rule out building a state-owned LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminal to ship in and store imported gas in liquefied form but he said it would be wrong to think of LNG as “the great saviour”.

“The response will not be a doubling down on fossil fuels,” he said. “We’re going to reduce our dependence on oil, coal and gas. The alternative is going to be green.”

Mr Ryan said the public were behind this response.

Since announcing the new national retrofit scheme seven weeks ago, inquiries about grants for solar panels, heat pumps, EV chargers and full retrofits had trebled.

He said he expected the first ‘one-stop shop’ service, where companies will handle the paperwork, installation and grant applications for retrofits, to be launched next week.

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