Small businesses call for Government support amid rising energy bills

ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell said many enterprises in energy intensive areas were looking at bills increasing by 100%
Small businesses call for Government support amid rising energy bills

Vivienne Clarke

A call for “bold” measures by the Government to support small and medium businesses this winter as they face escalating energy costs has been made by the ISME, the independent association for small and medium businesses.

ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that many enterprises in energy intensive areas were looking at bills increasing by 100 per cent. He said this was of particular concern for the grocery and poultry production sectors.

“That's just with current electricity bills, but gas is going to become much more significant as we move into October and November,” he said.

When asked about the potential impact of power outages, Mr McDonnell warned that for an industry such as poultry production there was no possibility of “simply turning off the energy for a short period of time. You have to keep those animals warm.

“It's going to cause extreme difficulty and very possibly permanent closure for some of those even if there are just temporary closures.”

Turning off fridges would also be a big problem for the grocery sector which requires fridges to operate constantly. Refrigeration incurs significant electricity costs, he added.

“They're not going to be able to absorb the sorts of increases that are being talked about now and they also certainly can't go through void periods where they're looking at two to three hours of a power outage. That would be extremely serious for them.”

Mr McDonnell added that higher tariffs would be the lesser of two evils. “Tariffs would be preferable to outages, but in our view those tariffs should be used to fund direct support – something like the CRSS scheme should be instituted now for those small businesses to assist them get through the winter and extreme price increases.

“We also note that those sorts of support are now being provided in EU neighbouring countries like Greece is giving small businesses a €30 per megawatt subsidy for the winter, Germany has reduced its VAT on gas by 63 per cent, we are going to need bold measures like that to support small businesses through this energy crisis.”

Mr McDonnell said he could not understand reports that the Government had apparently been “astounded” by the energy issue.

“I don't understand how anyone who has been tracking this issue over a period of time could be astounded. We have had a persistent failure to invest in our energy infrastructure over the last number of years – we have no new generation capacity, we have not upgraded our grid, so even when we get floating offshore wind on stream our grid is not going to be able to support it.

“We have zero gas storage for this year and there appears to be political objection to putting it in place. We're not even allowed talk about nuclear power, so there appears to be a complete denial of the need to invest in our energy generation and distribution capacity. We're certainly not surprised that we've reached this impasse now.”

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