CER announces extension of water charges plan to 31 December 2017

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) announced on 10 August 2017 that it approved Irish Waters Charges Plan update that extends the deadline for suspension of domestic water charges to 31 December 2017.

 
 

The announcement made on CER website states:

The CER has today, 10 August 2017, published an updated version of Irish Water’s Water Charges Plan. This document has been approved by the CER. 
 
The document has been updated by Irish Water to reflect an extension (through legislation) of the period for which domestic water charges are suspended. The period of suspension has been extended by five months to 31 December 2017. Please note that this Water Charges Plan does not reflect the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, published last April. Further amendments to the Water Charges Plan may be required at a later date pending the legislative changes anticipated following that report.
Today’s publication, 10 August 2017, supersedes any previous Water Charges Plans.
For details regarding the legislation which provided for the extension to 31 December 2017, please see the Water Services Act 2014 (Extension of Suspension of Domestic Water Charges) (Amendment) Order 2017 or S.I No. 330 of 2017.
Charges were originally suspended to 31 March 2017 by the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2016, and this was subsequently extended to 31 July 2017 by Water Services Act 2014 (Extension of Suspension of Domestic Water Charges) Order 2017 or S.I. No. 118 of 2017. These pieces of legislation are available on www.irishstatutebook.ie.
 

Source:  http://www.cer.ie/document-detail/Irish-Waters-Updated-Water-Charges-Plan-2017/1175

 


Murky Waters of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Water Funding

Watching officials from Irish Water, Ervia and the Commission for Energy Regulator duck questions at last week's meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Water Funding, in Leinster House, was like watching Pochards and Grebes diving and ducking in the murky waters at Inch Wildfowl Reserve, Co Donegal.  Now you see them, now you don’t. 

Irish Water was represented by Mr Jerry Grant (CEO), Ervia by Michael Mc Nicholas (CEO), Cathal Marley (Finance Dir). CER was represented by Paul McGowan (Commissioner) and Sheenagh Rooney (Dir of water).

       

       

Despite elaborate documents supplied by Irish Water and CER Committee members seemed to be having a hard time pinning down illusive and somewhat contradictory information.

At one point Jan O’ Sullivan, Lab,  added “We are not opposed to truth, we are a truth, truth committee and we need evidence before we can make decisions”.

She was supported by the chairman who told the officials “all we can do is have evidence provided and make decisions based on information that can be reasonably made available to us”

On another occasion David Cullinane, SF, requested a New Era report prepared for Government on funding options which the Expert Commission said was essential to complete an accurate assessment of financing options. He said that SF was refused an FOI request for the document but that a redacted version may be available in future. The Chairman Pádraig Ó Céidigh said he would request this report.

Below is a clip where Seamus Healy (Workers and Unemployed Action Group), like a good bloodhound, doggedly pursues the officials about the potential costs of metering just for excessive use and questions the economics. 

Mr Jerry Grant, Irish Water replied   “ we can only assess the costs when we know what the allowances and the tariffs are” .   A somewhat evasive answer.

 

Below in another clip,  we see Thomas Pringle trying to sniff out details from the officials such as whether a single utility can provide water at a lower cost than the previous 34 local authorities.  He asked"All you can actually say is that Irish Water has reduced it’s costs by 14% since 2014.”

Mr Jerry Mc Nicholas replied“we can absolutely say that we are providing it at a lower cost. What we can’t show is the quantum that the deputy is saying that that is by. We have looked at the benchmark going into 2014 based on 2013 costs and we know that we are delivering at less. We know we are delivering at less”

Absolutely muddying the waters again and no facts or figures in sight to back up the claim. Just for clarity when Mr Mc Nicholas refers to ‘quantum’ he possibly means ‘amount’ and ‘benchmark’ is probably ‘best performance’.

              Pádraig Ó Céidigh

              Pádraig Ó Céidigh

Fundamental Flaw

Overall the lack of detail and adequate time for questions was not helped by Pádraig Ó Céidigh insisting on moving things along quickly. Each member of the 19 member committee was allocated approx 5 minutes question time.  This constraint and the fact that the committee has only until the end of February to deliberate and investigate, does not seem adequate for such a serious mater involving billions of euro as opposed to the amount of time and resources invested by both the Government and Irish Water to date.

However, a fundamental flaw in the whole process has to be the committee’s ‘terms of reference’.  This was highlighted in the following video clip when John Lahart, FF, was stopped in his tracks trying to ask about commercial charges and metering,  information anyone would believe an integral part of assessing funding and operational costs of Irish Water. 

Mr Jerry Grant dived for cover and evaded the question by appealing to the chair “non domestic charging”.  Immediately the Chairman Mr Ó Céidigh intervened and adamantly refused to let Mr Lahart ask the question.  Mr Ó Céidigh's reasoning was that of the 'terms of reference' of the committee.   “ It’s purely domestic charging, that’s our brief, that is the direction, me and you have been given. Go and read it.” he said.

 

Illogical terms of reference and only when it suits

Mr Ó Céidigh when he opened the meeting described the session as “We will now consider the funding, operation, maintenance and investment services in the water services.”

He ignored Paul McGowan’s (CER)  while reading out CER's submission which more than likely was also in it's written submission.  Mr McGowan read;

“We also provide economic regulation of Irish Water and this is essentially achieved by approving Irish Water’s proposed water charges plan. The essential elements of that are the approval of setting of a revenue cap that Irish Water is allowed to earn and how that translates into tariffs whether they be domestic tariffs or non-domestic tariffs. And also how that translates into a connection policy which domestic or non-domestic customers would pay for connections to Irish Water system.”

Another instance of the Chair looking the other way was during the very last question of the session from Fine Gael’s Martin Hayden.   Mr Hayden closed the meeting by asking“in relation to the figure of €232 million for the funding of Irish Water for 2017,  does that take account ongoing commercial water rates that were incoming.”  Ironically Mr Hayden was not brought to book for bringing up 'commercial charges'  but rather was supplied a 'Yes' answer.

 

Kate O’Connell Fine Gael

Kate O’Connell Fine Gael

Contrived Manoeuver
Finally it may be a coincidence or maybe just a notion but it seemed that committee members, Kate O’Connell and Martin Hayden, both Fine Gael,  by the way,  had the first and last input of the session, respectively. 

One could easily be forgiven for concluding that it was a contrived manoeuvre.    A wily tactic maybe other members of the committee should consider especially when often times the first and last contributions are picked up by the media.

This show is going to be on the box i.e. Oireachtas media, for the next four weeks.  We think from watching the antics and especially Ms O’Connell, that it is going to be riveting viewing. Those medusa eyes are captivating and indeed would turn any opposition to stone.

 

Details about the Joint Committee:
http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/mediazone/pressreleases/2016/name-40119-en.html
http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/oireachtasbusiness/committees_list/futurefundingofdom

Viewing and video archives of Committee sessions:
https://oireachtas.heanet.ie/mp4/cr4/latest/
http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/watchlisten/watchlive/committeeroom4/


Regulator says Irish Water should not proceed with metering

Commission for Energy Regulation also proposes financial incentives for homeowners

by Sarah Bardon

So far 58% of households have had meters put in place but several hundred thousand properties remain to be linked

So far 58% of households have had meters put in place but several hundred thousand properties remain to be linked

Irish Water should stop installing water meters in homes, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has declared, warning that the cost of completion will cripple efforts to improve water quality and supply.

In a submission to an Oireachtas committee which is investigating options, the CER – Ireland’s water regulator – said finishing the programme was not a priority.

So far 58 per cent of households have had meters put in place – the installation efforts have been strongly opposed in some places – but several hundred thousand properties remain to be linked. No money has been put in Irish Water’s 2017/18 capital budget to finish the work.

“If a decision was taken to complete further metering then either significant additional funding would have to be made available or a significant level of necessary capital expenditure would have to be deferred from other priorities for water investment for the time period 2017-2018,” the CER.

CER also proposes that householders should be given the option of installing a meter which would entitle them to a tax rebate if they use less water than the average. Grants should be given to people who invest in water-saving measures, while it also proposes that the installation of meters in new houses and estates should be mandatory.

Expert commission

The regulator made the submission to the newly-established Oireachtas committee examining the future of water charges. The committee was established last year to consider a report by an expert commission.

This commission proposed water be funded by general taxation and each household be given an average allowance to be determined by the CER.

The regulator says it will consult publicly before deciding on allowances and and penalties for excessive usage.

In a separate submission, Irish Water said €13 billion must be invested in Ireland’s water and waste-water services to ensure safe drinking water and proper sewage treatment.

Irish Water said it does not believe water services should be funded wholly or largely through the Exchequer since this would put investment in competition with public spending demands. It said guaranteed funding was needed.

“Shortfall in funding tends to disproportionately affect the performance of the system since fixed costs [staff, chemicals, and energy] must be met, so that any shortfalls have a direct and rapid impact on the condition of the assets and the operation of the service.”

Legislation

If funding is to come from general taxation then legislation will be needed to ensure that income is guaranteed. The utility has required additional funding from the Exchequer since water charges were suspended.

Irish Water confirmed that €714 million would be needed this year – the annual €475 million subvention plus €239 million replacement revenue in lieu of previous domestic billable income.

The Oireachtas committee will meet Thursday to hear from Irish Water, the CER and officials from the Department of Housing.

Source: Irish Times, Jan 11 2017