By Harry Keaney
Until now in Ireland, getting electricity meant being a customer of the Electricity Supply Board, or, as it is more commonly referred to, the ESB. But with deregulation in the electricity market, that may be about to change.
A new brand of environmentally friendly electricity has been launched on the Irish market, with the power generated totally from wind. The power will be available to small businesses and domestic consumers from the end of next month.
Eirtricity is the first company to take advantage of the deregulation of the Irish electricity market. Electricity will be sourced from windfarms in Donegal, Cavan and along the west coast.
Chief Executive Eddie O’Connor said it will available to small and medium-sized businesses at a cheaper rate than they currently pay and to domestic consumers at the same rate as they now pay the ESB. It will all come through the same national grid, in the same way as the Electricity Supply Board’s electricity, but consumers will get a separate bill.
Meanwhile, the opening up of the electricity market next month is leading to doubts about the future of some of the ESB’s generating plants.
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Airlines in the crosshairs
Major airlines, including Aer Lingus and Ryanair, have been called in by the director of consumer affairs in Ireland to explain their advertising strategies.
The director, Carmel Foley, says that airline advertising does not always reflect the price consumers actually must pay. She said she is concerned at a growing trend of airlines advertising fares but failing to mention that extras, like airport charges and government taxes, also apply. Neither does advertising always reflect the fact that some fares are subject to restricted availability, she said.
The Irish Business Organization of New York will hold a networking dinner on Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. in Beckett’s Restaurant, 78 Pearl St., between Broad Street and Hanover Square. Details, Dan Comiskey at (212) 571-9695.
On Feb. 22 at 8 a.m., there will be an IBO networking breakfast in the Mezze Restaurant, 44th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. Details, call Bill Buckley at (212) 627-2111.
The IBO-UCD-Trinity 2000 ski trip will take place Feb. 11-13 at 1000 Acres Ranch Resort in the Lake George area. Details, call Siobhan Hennessy at (212) 409-9594.
More jobs go at Fruit of the Loom
Last Friday in Buncrana, Co. Donegal, another 218 people lost their jobs at Fruit of the Loom, the U.S. apparel manufacturer that is scaling down its operations in Ireland. Since December 1998, about 1,050 people have lost jobs at Fruit of the Loom. Factories have closed in Dungloe, Malin, Milford and Raphoe.
Fruit of the Loom is headquartered in Chicago and recently filed for bankruptcy protection.
Fruit of the Loom still employs about 1,100 in Buncrana and about 500 in Derry.
The euro dropped below parity with the dollar on Thursday, and fell further on Friday. It was introduced in January 1999 at $1.16675.
But the president of the European Central Bank, Wim Duisenberg, professed not to be too worried about the fall.
"I’m not disappointed," he said. "On the contrary, I must say the performance of the euro gives me reason to be pretty satisfied. Our main purpose is to deliver a climate of stable prices, and that is what we have done. That the exchange rate has fallen somewhat is, of course, of much less significance now for the euro area in total than it was in the past for individual countries. We honestly believe that the euro has a potential to increase in value, vis a vis the outside world, but those processes take time."
Duisberg is also keeping an eye on rising oil prices and the possible consequences for inflation and interest rates. He said a rise in interest rates was possible within a few months as a result of higher energy costs.
"We do expect, mainly due to higher oil prices, that inflation will creep up a little bit more in the coming months. If that led to higher labor costs, then we might have to react with our monetary policy," he added.
There is also the concern that if the euro continued to fall, it would lead to higher import prices, perhaps fueling inflation even more.