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Laois TD calls for electricity price caps and the reopening of two Midlands power stations

Shannonbridge Power Station

Local Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley called for electricity price caps and for the two midlands power stations to be reopened.

Deputy Stanley made the call while speaking in the Dáil recently in relation to the energy crisis.

He said “Sinn Féin is putting forward a proposal to protect households from any further price gouging by big electricity suppliers.

“We are calling for electricity prices to be reduced and capped at 2021 levels throughout the winter period, until at least February 2023.

“Irish households have experienced soaring price hikes and energy costs as well as other crippling increases in prices in a whole range of areas including food, transport and others. They badly need support.

“There have been almost 50 energy price increases over the past year. The Financial Times places Ireland 26th out of 27 countries in the EU with regard to State support for households during the energy crisis. Those are the facts as set out by the Financial Times.

“This Government can no longer sit on its hands while workers and families struggle and people freeze with the cold this winter. The so-called market is broken. Sinn Féin is calling for a proactive response to this crisis.”

Deputy Stanley outlined how his party would combat the current situation.

He said: “We would establish a fund of €1.6 billion, which is affordable, and would be ring-fenced from this year’s budget surplus of €4.5 billion.

“That is without going near the contingency fund of €2.5 billion. This would be supported by revenue from a windfall tax on energy companies.

“This windfall tax would be applied to any excess profits made by electricity suppliers as has been done in a number of other European countries.

“This is an anti-inflationary measure which would reduce prices at source and help right across the economy. The €1.6 billion fund would provide households with energy security and certainty throughout the winter.

“It would save households in the region of €600 on their bills and would stop price gouging by the big suppliers. Our approach is in stark contrast to the Government’s, which is inflationary.

“We are not writing a blank cheque for energy companies to extract profits. Any excess profits would be taxed to stop this. That is the difference.

“Sinn Féin also proposes cost-of-living cash payments. Those earning €21,000 a year would receive a cash payment of €500 while those earning €40,000 would receive €407.

“The figure would be tapered further on incomes up to €60,000, beyond which nothing would be received. These emergency measures would help households throughout the winter and are badly needed.’’

Deputy Stanley also called for two power stations in the Midlands to be reopened.

He said: “With regard to energy security, a number of years ago, I raised in this Chamber the need for the power stations at Shannonbridge and Lough Ree to be kept open.

“The power station in Edenderry has been co-fired and is now moving completely to biomass. The same thing could be done in those two power stations.

“I pointed out that these are in pivotal positions on the energy grid. The cutaway bogs surrounding the stations have ample space for solar panels.

“They are plug-in points to the electricity grid. We need dispatchable power. Wind power could also be plugged in at these sites.

“I raised these issues with the Minister of State’s party leader, who was on the Joint Committee on Climate Action at the time, and he told me that, if we were stuck for power, we could import nuclear power from Britain.

“At that time, I told him that what we needed was dispatchable power here in this country. We could have had that.

“That should have been done at the time. Instead, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and now the Green Party have sleepwalked us into this energy security crisis.

“What is the Government’s proposal? It is to import generators. I heard the Taoiseach on the radio. He did not inspire confidence in me.

“If I heard him correctly, he said that it would be September 2023 before these emergency generators were in place. I understand that a figure of €40 million was mentioned. What are these to be fuelled with? Is it diesel?

“This Government, and every Government over the past 12 years, has dragged its heels with regard to planning regulations for offshore wind generation.

“After 20 years, we have seven turbines off our coast. It is a scandal. We should be exporting energy. We should be a net exporter of energy to the rest of Europe.

“The measures put forward by Sinn Féin go some way towards doing that, as we hope the measures to come out at European level over the next week or so to tackle the big generators also will.

“I also ask the Minister of State, as a matter of urgency, to forget about the cul-de-sac the Government has allowed us to walk into and to look again at Shannonbridge and Lough Ree.

“Let us face up to common sense and work with good companies such as Bord na Móna, which we own, and the ESB to get this power going. EU rules can be waived in an emergency.

“The Minister of State and I both know that. In an emergency, all bets are off with regard to the rules. We both know that. Let us move to a greener future in which jobs and energy security are produced and in which prices are lowered.

“Let us implement the measures put forward by Sinn Féin along with the once-off financial package for households.”

SEE ALSO – Laois school set for Ploughing Championships where they will raffle a quad to raise much needed funds

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.