Farmers who use electricity in milking cows along with pig farms, poultry farms and the horticultural industry are being hit by energy costs like never before, Michael Healy-Rae, the Independent TD for Kerry has told the Dáil.

The Kerry TD said that if electricity prices keep rising people will not be able to heat their homes or work their “electric products” because they will be unable to pay their electricity bills.

He believes that government supports, which include electricity credits of €600 in two tranches, will not deal with the issue if “the price keeps going the way it is going”.

Healy-Rae said:

“While I welcome the money that is to be given in a couple of tranches, which will be needed and wanted, what the people really wanted was a cap on prices.

This country is full of small businesses. They are the backbone of Ireland, particularly rural Ireland. People are quite simply being forced out of business.”

The Kerry TD said he is “pleading” with the government to reconsider the ban on the sale of turf which comes into effect at the end of October.

The government’s domestic energy strategy came under attack from some opposition and independent politicians during a Dáil debate on the government’s Government’s Electricity Costs Emergency Measures and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 last night. (Tuesday, October, 11).

Rural communities and energy costs

Many independent TDs were keen to highlight the particular impact of higher energy costs on rural communities during the Dáil debate – an issue which the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has also repeatedly highlighted.

IFA President Tim Cullinan has recently warned that farmers are increasingly concerned about the bills they will face this winter and recent hikes in electricity prices will be extremely challenging for farming families.

Carol Nolan, Independent TD for Laois-Offaly, told the Dáil that the issue of energy costs was “front and centre for households, businesses and farms, which are the major users of energy”.

Nolan said:

“A farmer I spoke to recently said his costs have risen by more than 400%. Can any level of state intervention rise to the challenge of offering support, when costs are at such an astronomical scale?”.

She has urged the government and Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, to “immediately commit” to reopening the West Offaly Power Station in Shannonbridge, and the Lough Ree Power Station in Lanesboro.

Nolan also said the government should change its approach or “at least pause” the banning of heat and energy sources such as peat and wood against the backdrop of rapidly rising energy costs.

There were also calls during the debate for the government to apply “fiscal and regulatory burden-sharing measures to energy suppliers such as the ESB”.

Independent TD for Cork-south west, Michael Collins, said:

“On average households are set to experience annual combined bills for electric and gas of €6,000 next year if the current rate of increase continues.

“This is not just going to create a hardship which can be offset by a couple of tokenistic €200 vouchers; no, it is going to bring chaos to the personal and business finances of the majority of people in the state, including our schools”.

In response Ossian Smyth, Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, said that the government’s proposed Electricity Costs Emergency Measures Bill will provide “a payment of €1.2 billion across more than 2 million families”.

Smyth said:

“This is a single universal measure, part of an overall package of €2.5 billion, most of which is targeted. This payment is universal. It goes to everybody”.