Division over ESB price increase

There were disagreements between ministers over the size of a proposed increase in electricity prices in May 1983.

State papers show that John Bruton, the industry and energy minister, sought State approval for a 12.7% increase in order to reduce the ESB’s deficit to £61.1m.

Bruton warned the ESB’s financial position would record a £118m deficit if no price increase was granted. However, Frank Cluskey, the trade and commerce minister, said he would only agree to a price increase up to just under 9.7%.

John Boland, the public service minister, said a contributory factor to ESB’s high cost structure was the high level of pay rises it had conceded since 1978,

Alan Dukes, the finance ministeFinance Minister Alan Dukes recommended a 15% increase plus further cost savings of £6m by the ESB and a disposal of the company’s assets in order to halt its deteriorating financial position. Bruton said an increase of 19.9% would be necessary for the ESB to clear its deficit by Mar 1984.

However, the ESB said any price increase of that size would meet such consumer resistance that the projected revenue would not be obtained.

Ireland already had some of the highest electricity prices in Europe.

It was decided at a Cabinet meeting in May 1983 that Bruton should establish a group to investigate Ireland’s high electricity prices and report back within six months.

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