Bord Gáis will not disconnect vulnerable customers this winter

No let-up in rising energy prices until at least next summer, company chief warns

While Bord Gáis Energy has joined other companies in increasing its prices in recent weeks, it has deferred increases of 10 per cent and 12 per cent until the spring. Photograph: iStock

While Bord Gáis Energy has joined other companies in increasing its prices in recent weeks, it has deferred increases of 10 per cent and 12 per cent until the spring. Photograph: iStock

 

There will be no let-up in the spiralling cost of heating and lighting Irish homes until next summer at the earliest, the head of the second-largest gas and electricity provider in the State has warned.

Bord Gáis Energy has joined other companies in increasing its prices in recent weeks with the cost over the next 12 months set to climb by over €220 with the increase taking effect later this month.*

Its chief executive Dave Kirwan has committed the company to not disconnecting vulnerable customers this winter as long as they engage with the company and discuss their difficulties.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, Mr Kirwan blamed soaring wholesale gas prices for much of the price increases at a domestic level.

He said they were at a level “that we haven’t seen, frankly, in decades, if ever”, and pointed out that wholesale gas prices were six times higher in September than the same month last year.

He said increases had been driven by “three factors not as one”.

Mr Kirwan cited “very low storage levels of gas in Europe going into winter”, saying it was 70 per cent of capacity compared with net 92 per cent.

Key supply line

He also pointed to “very few shipments of liquefied natural gas, which is also another key supply line into Europe. Of 145 shipments that left North America by August, only eight had gone to Europe because such is the demand in Asia. ”

He added that there had been an expectation that a new pipeline that was developed between Russia and Germany “would flow into our market this winter” but that has yet to be turned on.

Mr Kirwan stressed high prices “are definitely with us this winter. We don’t see a relaxation of those supply constraints until beyond this winter and into next summer.”

He said the North Stream 2 pipeline running from Russian to Germany would “open up the supply bottlenecks that we’ve experienced and that would allow us then replenish storage stocks next summer”.

He said the company had “ramped up its efforts” in dealing with vulnerable customers and those struggling to pay their bills.

He said the company would be attending a meeting planned for this week with the regulator and agencies such as St Vincent De Paul to discuss the problems likely to be experienced this winter.

He concluded by saying that the “key thing here is no vulnerable customer should be shut off from energy due to the circumstances that they find themselves in. We never cut vulnerable customers off when they’re in conversation with us but this winter particularly, we’re meeting the regulators to discuss the circumstances and steps will be taken, I’m pretty sure, to protect customers.”

As well as Bord Gáis, last week Electric Ireland said that from November 1st, it would boost residential electricity prices by 9.3 per cent, adding €9.02 a month to the average bill, while it intends to add 7 per cent, or an average of €4.85 a month, to household gas charges.

Furthermore, last month Energia announced that it would increase charges for electricity and gas by 15.7 per cent and 18.5 per cent respectively, on top of two rounds of price increases earlier in the year. Others, such as Panda Power and Pinergy, have raised prices four times already this year.

*This article was amended on October 4th, 2021