The assertion that high prices are caused by lack of competition is equally groundless.
Between 2001 and 2004, ESB operating costs, including the purchase of increasingly expensive oil and natural gas, went up by only 5% a year. Meanwhile, electricity prices increased by over 40%. Since the price increase can't be put down to rising fuel costs or some fantasy 'wage racket', what is going on?
The government wants what the authors want in the name of 'competition' and 'liberalising the market' . . . private sector companies producing electricity. But ESB prices have historically been so low that private companies couldn't turn a profit.
To entice private operators, the government increased energy costs through price rises, stealth taxes and levies. People are paying for an ideological experiment in liberalisation and the eventual privatisation of significant sections of ESB.
There's more. Consumers pay an invisible 'investment levy'. Despite the fact that the grid is a resource of vital national importance, the government, unlike those in most other countries, does not provide the capital investment. Instead, the cost is paid through higher electricity bills. Even the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment stated that this policy "unnecessarily adds to energy costs and undermines our commercial competitiveness".
The government also adds a public obligation levy, again criticised by ET&E, and higher VAT. Businesses lose competitiveness and householders face higher living costs, all because of the government's ideological obsession with privatisation.
The article was correct to highlight the need to develop native renewable resources.
It is an economic and environmental imperative that we switch from a fossil-fuel based economy to a renewable energy-based one.
But the article painted a backward-looking landscape of competing private companies wholly owning the generation plants. That was tried in Ireland and failed so completely that the government of the time had to establish ESB.
Back in the 1920s, we had a plethora of private companies in the energy market. They made good profits but couldn't do the thing they were supposed to: provide electricity on a national scale.
An epochal shift from fossil fuels will not be carried out by a fragmented and incoherent market. This is not a statist argument. This development can, and where possible should, take place with a range of partners such as private companies, multi-nationals, local authorities and non-profit organisations.
But we will need a substantial player with decades of experience on a national scale. We will need large-scale industrial planning. We will require considerable investment in research, design and integration, especially in the area of wave and tidal power which has even greater potential than wind.
There is one body in existence that can carry that out: ESB.
Rather than selling off an efficient and competitive public enterprise we should harness the skills, productivity and experience of the ESB workforce to make the transition to renewable technologies while maintaining competitive prices.
We need a national vision similar to that being developed in Sweden, which is working for an oil-free economy by 2020. What we don't need are pricing policies and ideological experiments that create obstacles to efficiency and damage business, living standards and our environment.