Up to 43 per cent of households could shortly be in energy poverty, a senior researcher with the Economic & Social Research Institute (ESRI) has warned.
Energy poverty was when a family spent more than 10 per cent of its income on energy, Niall Farrell told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland. That figure had been 29 per cent earlier this year, but with the recent rise in energy costs, the figure was now at 43 per cent, he said.
It was very hard to predict when the levelling off of energy prices would happen, Mr Farrell said, adding there were currently extraordinary circumstances that were having side effects.
It was impossible for the energy companies to predict future prices based on current information, but it was to be hoped there would not be many more increases going forward, he said. However, if something unprecedented was to happen “then all bets are off”.
Mr Farrell also warned that introducing windfall taxes could lead to unintended consequences, adding alternatives such as market reform or pressure-release-valve measures were possibilities.
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The trajectory at the moment was that energy poverty was going to be an increasing burden for a greater proportion of the population, but this could be tackled through measures, he said.
Continuing price rises are making energy bills “unaffordable” for many people and measures to ease the pressure on consumers will be implemented quickly after the budget, the Government has pledged.
As the State’s largest energy retailer announced another round of price increases, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the next raft of cost-of-living measures would target not just people on lower incomes but also businesses and those on middle incomes who were struggling with increased costs.
He said that the Government would take action to help people with bills that “are increasing at a rate that can be and will be unaffordable”, adding that measures that can help with the rising costs would be “at the heart” of the budget and would be implemented this year.
Mr Donohoe warned, however, there were constraints on how much the Government could spend to assist households with energy bills, but he repeatedly declined to be drawn on a figure.
The State’s largest energy retailer, Electric Ireland, said on Thursday it was raising its standard household electricity and gas prices by 26.7 per cent and 37.5 per cent respectively from October 1st in response to the recent increase in wholesale gas prices.
The move will impact about 1.1 million electricity customers and 175,000 gas customers. This is the fourth price increase announcement from an energy supplier in less than a week, following hikes by SSE Airtricity, Community Power and PrepayPower.