Cate McCurry, PA
The Minister for Finance has said he has no plans to extend the major energy support scheme for struggling businesses to help reduce their bills.
Paschal Donohoe will review the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme announced in last week’s budget, but said he does not believe it needs to be enhanced.
The financial aid will be provided to businesses that can show the unit cost on their energy bills has spiked by 50 per cent or more compared to last year.
Speaking in Tullamore on Wednesday, Mr Donohoe said he believes there is “sufficient support” available to businesses.
“The Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme is a scheme that will help businesses with a portion of their higher energy costs,” Mr Donohoe said.
“I wanted to bring in a scheme that I’m confident our country can afford, that won’t be a source of additional risk for us. But will also provide meaningful help to businesses.
“Of course businesses will always make the case for more, of course they will, I understand why they would, given the pressures they’re facing, but there also is recognition that the scheme, through the 40 per cent payment of the higher bill that they are now facing, will make a difference.
“What I want to do now is get the scheme open and encourage as many businesses who qualify for the scheme to enrol with the scheme. Then, when we have done that, particularly after a month has elapsed, we’ll have a far better idea regarding how many businesses will be on the scheme, what it’s costing us and what the average level of support is to different businesses.
“Then we’ll make an evaluation of the scheme at that point, but I believe a six-month scheme of this duration, with the cost of €1.2 billion, which has been broadly welcomed, is a really significant intervention by the Government to back businesses and backdrops.”
He ruled out a need to expand the scheme beyond six months.
“I believe the scheme that we’ve brought forward will provide additional significant help,” he added.
“My focus now is on implementing that scheme, getting it up and running, get it in place for businesses for the six months that I’ve indicated it will be available for.
“As with any scheme, we will always evaluate it, we will see what impact it has. But I have no plans at the moment to change it further.”
Meanwhile, Mr Donohoe said the Government will also give “all the support” it can to pay-as-you-go households with their energy bills.
Asked how the Government will ensure customers are not disconnected this winter, he said: “I hope and expect we can bring clarity to that through the work that Minister (Eamon) Ryan will do and the engagement we will have with energy providers.”