ESB prices to rise by 15% next month

 

THE ESB is to increase its electricity prices to domestic customers by almost 15 per cent from the beginning of next month.

In a statement issued yesterday evening, the company also said it was significantly reducing the discounts it was prepared to offer to customers who switched to it from rival providers.

An electricity price increase of 15 per cent will add about €160 to consumers’ household bills.

The price increase, while not a surprise, was higher than that of its competitors Bord Gáis Energy and Airtricity, which both announced price increases of 12 per cent earlier this summer.

When asked by The Irish Times why its increases were larger, a company spokesman pointed out that it was introducing its price hikes up to two months after its rivals.

The spokesman also expressed surprise that both Bord Gáis Energy and Airtricity had rolled out their price increases so quickly.

The company’s general manager, Liam Molloy, said he regretted the increases but insisted the company would “continue to work with our customers who are facing difficulties in dealing with their electricity accounts”.

Mr Molloy blamed price increases on the international commodity markets.

He said they had “risen steeply over the past year and unfortunately we can no longer continue to absorb these increased costs without reflecting them in the prices we charge our customers. We have held off increasing electricity prices for as long as possible.”

While the unit price increase is 14.8 per cent, the domestic customer’s average electricity bills will increase by about 12 per cent as the Public Service Obligation levy is being reduced across all providers.

Customers who availed of discount price plans offered by ESB Electric Ireland, as the company is now known, on its entry into the competitive market in April will continue to receive these discounts.

The size of the discounts will, however, be reduced from up to 17 per cent to a maximum of 9 per cent for new customers making the switch back from other providers.

Existing customers who contact the company to avail of discount rates – they are not automatically applied to existing customers accounts – have also seen the potential savings they can receive slashed.

Age Action and Alone both criticised the increase and have sought assurances from Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, that older people will not suffer in the wake of the price increase.

“Against the background of these soaring fuel prices, last month the Government cut the gas-electricity unit allocation under the Household Benefits Package by 25 per cent,” Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said.

“We are seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister to discuss how the Government intends to protect the most vulnerable of older people this winter.”

Seán Moynihan, of Alone, said the increased energy costs “mean many of the older people who need our services will be faced with deepening poverty and a shocking but real choice: to heat or to eat.”