Electricity bills could be cut by up to 10% if the ESB were allowed to drop its prices below those fixed by the energy regulator, the company said today.
ESB chairman Tadhg O’Donoghue said suppliers should be allowed to reduce their prices if costs are falling, and called on the regulator to set a maximum price to allow companies to charge less.
He said the move could result in customers benefiting from a 5% to 10% decrease in their bills.
“The sooner this restriction is lifted and ESB is allowed to compete on the same terms as independent suppliers, the sooner efficiencies and savings can be passed on,” said Mr O’Donoghue, highlighting the prohibition as a barrier to competition and greater savings.
Launching the company’s annual report for 2006, Mr O’Donoghue announced profits of €223m, down from €241m on the previous year.
He said the figures were encouraging as they highlight continued cost savings and efficiencies.
The report revealed an increase in the number of connected customers, with 105,127 connected in 2006 compared to 89,079 in the previous year, while it showed a drop in staff numbers of nearly 500, bringing the total employed by ESB to 7,800.
Over the past five years staff numbers at ESB have reduced by 2,000 (20%).
Meanwhile, the company’s capital expenditure for 2006 came to nearly €1bn, with continued investments in electricity networks, generation plant and customer service improvements.
The company expects capital investment to continue at about €1bn annually to the end of the decade.
Internationally, ESB has also begun construction of the Marchwood plant in Southampton and is exploring opportunities in Spain, Poland and Wales.
Chief executive Padraig McManus said ESB International continues to provide good growth opportunities for ESB in neighbouring EU markets.
He added that the opening of the Single Electricity Market, due for November this year, would be a welcome further step in the creation of “real competition”, and he warned against the over reliance on imported fossil fuels to meet insatiable energy needs.