Opening Bell: Renewable energy reducing costs, farm safety, daa breaks records

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Electricity prices could climb 15% as Ireland moves to renewable energy, but a new report makes the case that costs will be far higher if we fail to become a low-carbon economy.

The PwC report, commissioned by the Electricity Association of Ireland, has called for the rapid deployment of electric vehicles, a possible ban of normal cars and carbon tax hikes to reduce emissions and prevent climate change.

It states that investment in energy efficiency and transport will see the average household energy spend fall by 20%.

While an 11% hike in electricity costs would add €220 a year to bills, business-as-usual would add €510.

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One in three people buying new cars are using entirely unregulated forms of finance to do so.

According to The Irish Times, consumer protection authorities are concerned about the regulation of personal contract plans (PCPs) and have "raised the issue of further regulation" with the Department of Finance and the Central Bank.

The increasingly-popular PCPs are a form of hire purchase agreement that require an upfront deposit.

Consumers are availing of the plans as they offer lower monthly payments.

Industry sources say that PCPs now account for close to one-third of the market.

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Farmers are being urged to make farm safety a bigger priority.

It comes as a study is published showing high levels of risk-taking by farmers as they go about their work.

One in 4 farmers they don't wear basic safety gear like high viz vests or ear defenders while working. Some 27% also say they tackle dangerous jobs on their own, rather than seeking help.

The report has been compiled by the ESRI on behalf of the Health and Safety Authority.

Mark O'Halloran, chief executive of the HSA, said:

"Many farmers are carrying out risky activities that really require a second person. So they're dangerous activities, they're difficult activities.

"They're trying to carry them out on their own and, as a consequence, they're leading to serious accidents and fatalities."
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The chairman of the daa is looking for more flexibility when it comes to the government-imposed pay cap that might prove restrictive as the semi-state body searches for a new chief executive.

The cap means no CEO of a semi-state body can be paid an annual salary of more than €250,000.

Outgoing chief executive Kevin Toland was announced last week as the new CEO of baked goods giant Aryzta. While he received that basic salary in 2016, he also received pension and other taxable benefits totalling €149,000.

Padraig O'Riordain, chairman of the body which controls Dublin and Cork airports, said:

"Clearly, the cap on pay is way below market...

"I do think we need to get pay for chief executives up to a level that is in some way reasonable. It's something that really does have to change."

The calls came as the daa reported that revenues rose 17% last year to a record €793m. Profits after tax also climbed 75% to a record €108m.

Dublin Airport handled 27.9 million passengers last year.