SSE Airtricity is to significantly increase its standard household gas and electricity prices for the second time in just five months, the company announced on Friday.
The company said it was raising its standard household gas and electricity prices by 39 per cent and 35.4 per cent respectively from October 1st.*
The move will impact around 250,000 electricity customers and 85,000 gas customers. The increase will add almost €600 a year to the average customer’s electricity bill and over €500 a year to their gas bill.
SSE last increased its prices in May when it hiked the unit price of its gas by 39 per cent and its electricity by over 30 per cent. It also increased its prices three times in 2021.
When all these price increases are taken together, SSE customers will be paying over €1,000 more for their gas and €1,100 more for their electricity each year.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) estimates the cost of energy products and utilities increased by 48 per cent in the year to July. Energy prices have been the main driver of rampant inflation in Ireland.
Last year there were over 35 price hike announcements from Irish energy suppliers and the trend has continued into this year with Bord Gais Energy, Energia, Electric Ireland and PrePayPower all announcing significant price hikes.
Almost 70 per cent of households would be plunged into energy poverty in worst-case scenarios drawn up for the State’s energy crisis oversight group by the ESRI.
Some of its calculations were released in mid-June in a paper which showed that energy poverty had risen to a record high of 29.4 per cent, and could rise as high as 43 per cent if prices rose again by 25 per cent.
SSE said the increases were due to volatility across global energy markets, and ongoing market uncertainty which has “impacted energy suppliers across Ireland and Europe”.
Daragh Cassidy, head of communications at price comparison website bonkers.ie, said the hikes were “clearly unsustainable”.
“To say these are unprecedented times is an understatement,” he said. “Price increases of this frequency and this magnitude are clearly unsustainable. And more price hikes from other suppliers later in the year, including SSE, are almost a certainty.
“Since the start of last year, some suppliers have announced even bigger price hikes that have added over €2,500 to households’ annual gas and electricity bills. It’s astronomical. The Government needs to decide now how it plans to help households over the coming months.
“Is the temporary reduction in VAT being kept? Is another energy credit going to be paid? Is the Government going to place a windfall tax on energy companies, and if so, how would this even work when many are headquartered overseas?”
SSE Airtricity managing director Klair Neenan said the group recognised the strain many households are feeling due to the cost of living crisis.
“We know this news will be disappointing for our customers,” she said. “It was hoped market volatility would ease, but the global energy crisis continues to impact gas and electricity costs for all energy suppliers.”
Mr Cassidy said households looking to offset the price increases should compare prices and switch to a cheaper supplier.
“Despite the rising prices, there is still good competition among energy suppliers in Ireland for new customers right now and many are offering big discounts for a year to those who switch,” he said.
“I’d also encourage households to check out any Government supports which are available such as the winter fuel allowance, the free electricity allowance and the exceptional needs payment.
“Some suppliers have also set up hardship funds which will provide financial support to those most in need so I’d encourage people to chat to their suppliers too.”
Ms Neenan said SSE customers who find themselves in difficulty should contact the company. “We are acutely aware of the impact this has for households and are working hard to help where we can,” she said.
“While it is difficult to know when wholesale prices will begin to improve, we are committed to reducing our prices as soon as we can.”
*This article was amended to correct an error in the percentages.