Families to get refunds following errors on energy bills

Network charge move made 12 years ago left homes subsidising businesses

Households are set to get refunds of about €50 on their energy bills, after being overcharged on bills dating as far back as 2010.

Regulators say households will be repaid a contribution they unknowingly made to big businesses’ electricity costs up for more than a decade up to 2022.

The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) last year shifted €50 million in electricity network charges from homes to around 2,000 of the Republic’s biggest businesses.

The move reversed a Government decision made 12 years previously to “rebalance” network charges, moving the €50 million charge on to households and off energy-hungry enterprises.


It subsequently emerged that between 2010 and last year, customers paid more than they should have, because of a mistake in applying around half the charge.

CRU chairwoman Aoife McEvilly said on Tuesday that households would be repaid that money. She told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action that the commission was looking at the best way of doing this and calculating the final total due.

In a statement following the meeting, ESB Networks said: “While the process and mechanism of the rebalancing is still to be determined with the CRU, ESB Networks anticipates that it will result in the reduction of a domestic electricity bill in the order of €50 in total.”

The CRU calculated that last autumn’s move to reverse the original decision and switch the burden of the charge back on to businesses would save households around €40 a-year.

Both employers’ body Ibec and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment criticised the move for imposing extra costs on businesses.

Separately, all electricity customers can expect a refund of cash they paid to support wind and solar power through the public service obligation charge on their bills.

Under a new system, green electricity generators pay back some of the revenues they receive if wholesale prices exceed amounts guaranteed to them through the State’s renewable energy support scheme.

The regulator in turn refunds this to customers, who fund it in the first place through the public service obligation.

Around €89 is due to each customer, according to some estimates. Ms McEvilly told the committee that the final piece of legislation needed to allow the refund should go through by March. “We will make a payment back to customers, starting in March and continuing for seven months,” she said.

While regulators are working out the final details, the refund will most likely be credited to bills, reducing the total that each customer pays.

Ms McEvilly also confirmed that the regulator was in talks with suppliers about extending a ban on disconnecting customers who are struggling to pay their bills.

That moratorium is due to end on February 28th, but the regulator faces pressure to extend it as many families continue to face problems paying energy bills.

More than 227,000 or one in 10 households were behind on electricity bill payments at the end of last year, while almost 39,000 businesses, or 14 per cent, were in arrears, the regulator’s figures show.

One-fifth, or 139,800 domestic gas customers, were overdue with their payments in the last three months of 2022, while almost 7,000 enterprises were in arrears.

CRU staff also told the meeting some emergency gas-fired electricity generators would be ready before next winter, while other power plants would start generating through the closing months of this year.

Rising demand, power plant closures and a failure to build contracted new generators have squeezed electricity supplies in the Republic.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas