From Socialist Voice, December 2009

The state continues its industrial sabotage of the ESB

Recently the Government requested the ESB to advance a €176 million dividend payout so as to subsidise electricity prices for a select number of customers, known as the Large Energy Users’ (LEU) Group. What is curious about this request is that the members of the LEU group already have their needs supplied by competitors of the ESB.
     Yet while the ESB is prohibited from cross-subsidising between its own activities, it is now being asked by the Government to subsidise the LEU group, 90 per cent of which are supplied by the likes of Viridian, Airtricity, and Energia.
     This must be put in context. When the ESB recently proposed a further development of turf-fired stations the Government maintained that the sanction of the European Union was required before it could provide subvention for the projects.
     Yet the Government seems to have little concern about issues of regulating state aid when it comes to supplying subsidies to a select area of the private sector. So ESB customers—principally small to medium-sized businesses as well as domestic customers, all of whom have their prices regulated—are now being asked by the Government to subsidise the non-regulated sector, whose prices are set by the open market.
     If there is a valid case for the electricity industry subsidising electricity prices, surely the likes of Viridian and Endesa should be required to make their contribution.
     The additional extraction of cash from the ESB will take place in a situation where the total and future demand for electricity is reducing. Considering the ESB’s future financial commitments—such as further investment in the transmission and distribution networks and plugging a major deficit in the company pension scheme—this seems to be almost a form of industrial sabotage by proxy on the part of the Government. It is difficult to see how the ESB is going to meet many of its current and future financial obligations when faced when pressures of this sort.
     Government strategy at present appears to revolve around transforming the ESB into something of a “cash cow” for the benefit of private industry. Workers’ concerns and the strategic development of this important industrial sector have been consigned to a back seat under artificially contrived financial restrictions. In many respects we have been down this road before, as our present incoherent national telecommunications network testifies.
     The Irish political classes are continuing their utterly parasitic role in the affairs of the nation; they remain, as ever, a comprador gombeen class entirely subservient to servicing the needs of international finance capitalism.
     What the CPI believes is required (see An Economy for the Common Good) is a coherent state strategy subject to developing the country’s needs in a way that meets the interests of the Irish people and our future. Such a policy remains the foundation stone upon which any strategy for democracy and securing the common good must rest.

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