‘Substantial decrease’ in customers in electricity arrears in December due to energy credit

Some 243,644 domestic electricity customers were behind on payments by the end of December 2023, a fall of 34,759 compared to November

The number of domestic electricity customers in arrears at the end of last year fell by almost 35,000 between November and December, with the fall linked to the provision of the first of three Government energy credits announced in Budget 2024.

Latest figures published by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) show that 243,644 domestic electricity customers were in arrears by the end of December 2023, a “substantial decrease” on 34,759 in November due to the first electricity credit.

The number of customers in arrears in December 2023 was still higher than the 227,681 in arrears during the same month in 2022.

There was a slight increase in the number of domestic gas customers in arrears in the last month of 2023, rising from 152,966 in November to 153,161 in December.

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The number of gas customers in arrears in December 2023 is an increase on the 139,785 customers behind on their payments a year earlier.

In the last quarter of 2023, some 11 per cent of domestic electricity customers and 22 per cent of domestic gas customers were in arrears.

This compares to 12 per cent of electricity customers and 23 per cent of gas customers in the third quarter of 2023, and 11 per cent and 20 per cent respectively in the final quarter of 2022.

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Daragh Cassidy, head of communications at price comparison website bonkers.ie, said it is “encouraging” to see the number of households behind on their energy bills fall back to pre-pandemic levels, likely due to energy credits, a mild winter, falling energy prices and hardship funds set up by suppliers.

However, he said gas arrears figures remain “a bit concerning” and are above pre-pandemic arrears levels of 15 to 16 per cent.

“Anyone struggling with their bills should reach out to their supplier first and foremost. Many have plans to help those in need. Support can also be sought from the likes of Mabs [Money Advice and Budgeting Service] and the Saint Vincent de Paul,” he said, adding that those who can switch provider could make savings of up to several hundred euro.

In terms of non-domestic customers, some 35,290 were in electricity arrears by December 2023, and 7,013 were in gas arrears. This is down from 41,847 and 7,100 respectively in November.

In the final quarter of 2023, 12 per cent of non-domestic customers were in electricity arrears, and some 25 per cent were behind on gas bill payments – down from 15 per cent and 29 per cent respectively in the third quarter.

The CRU said that a total of 1,484 electricity accounts and 1,611 gas accounts were disconnected in 2023 due to non-payments, compared to 2,498 and 990 disconnections respectively in 2022.

However, no disconnections took place between December 2022 and March 2023 due to a moratorium in place, and figures from July 2023 onwards are subject to change after reconciliation with disconnection records held by ESB Networks and Gas Networks Ireland.

Ellen O'Regan

Ellen O’Regan

Ellen O’Regan is an Irish Times journalist.