Support for campaign unsettles NIE

Nationalise the Utilities Campaign received a letter from NIE challenging a leaflet of the campaign. Below is the response of the campaign and the initial letter from NIE.

Nationalise the Utilities Campaign
c/o 13 Lombard St


Kerstie Forsyth
NIE Energy Supply
Woodchester House
50 Newforge Lane

 BT9 5NW

23rd February 2009

Dear Ms Forsyth,

Thank you for your letter posted on 17th February regarding the ‘Correction of information on ‘Nationalise the Utilities Campaign’ leaflet and Socialist Party NI website’.

However, we do not agree with what you claim are corrections to our leaflet.

The original leaflet, which was written before January, correctly stated ‘Since July, electricity prices have risen by a massive 52% and gas by 53%’. This has now been updated to ‘Between July and January, electricity prices increased by a massive 52% and gas by 53%…. Given these facts, the announcement to cut electricity bills by 10% and gas by 20% still leaves people more badly off. The fact that the Assembly are presenting these cuts as a concession is an insult to people. We are demanding a complete reversal of all the increases.’

We have not stated that NIE and NIE Energy are the same company. Nonetheless, we believe it is not accurate to state ‘NIE Energy and NIE are two completely separate companies.’ Both NIE and NIE Energy are owned by the same immediate parent company, Viridian Group. Both companies are also registered at the same address.

The NIE profit figure on our leaflet is not incorrect. For the year ending 31 March 2007 NIE made a profit after tax of £93.9m. The following year NIE made a profit of £81.5m. We have updated our leaflet to give the figures for both years. We have never stated that NIE Energy profits are the same as NIE profits.

It is not correct to state that the Regulator (NIAUR) represents the interests of all NI electricity customers. His rubber-stamping of price increases has been to the detriment of ordinary people and to the benefit of the energy companies. The Regulator is an appointed position, who has never been elected by electricity customers.

We do not agree that NIE Energy is a very efficient business. An energy company should be judged on it’s ability to provide energy needs for all, not just those who can afford to pay. The fact that thousands of people are faced with the ‘choice’ of having to decide whether to ‘heat or eat’, as a result of painful rises in energy bills demonstrates that NIE has failed to provide the energy needs for all.

Your claim that ‘NIE Energy did not make a single penny more profit from the price increases in July and October 2008’ is also not correct. If you had not increased prices, then your profit figures would have fallen. Your decision to pass on the increase in wholesale electricity costs to customers was a deliberate decision to put your profits first before the interests of customers.

 NIE has a monopoly on electricity supply to households. For businesses, NIE dominates the electricity market. For the vast majority of businesses it is next to impossible to switch from NIE to a rival electricity supplier. The reality is there is no competition in the electricity market.

It is understood by the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland that they are being ripped off by the private energy companies who are making huge profits. The fact that over 500 elderly people died from cold related deaths last year in Northern Ireland is a major scandal. This is the real consequence of rises in energy bills.

If NIE was sincere in it’s claim to take ‘the issue of fuel hardship very seriously’ it would immediately reverse the price rises in full. We are not hopeful that NIE will do so. That is why we are campaigning for the energy companies to be taken back into public ownership and run democratically in the interests of people, not to make profits.
Your interest in our campaign literature indicates that you are taking notice of the support our campaign is generating. We will be sure to publicise the correspondence between us to encourage debate over who should own and control utilities.

Yours truly,

Daniel Waldron,

On behalf of Nationalise the Utilities Campaign

Letter from NIE Energy

pdf of original letter from NIE Energy HERE

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