Increase in gas customers falling into arrears
The number of domestic gas customers falling into arrears has increased from 20% to 23% in the first quarter of 2023.
However, the number of domestic electricity customers in arrears dropped from 11% to 9% over the same period.
The data comes from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, which will be considered today by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action.
The number of domestic gas customers in arrears at the end of March stood at 160,399, while the number of domestic electricity customers in arrears was 199,790.
In an accompanying statement, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities says it remains “very concerned” at the impact of high energy prices on households and businesses.
On arrears, the statement notes that the number of domestic electricity customers in arrears remains below the levels before the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
It adds: “The government emergency electricity credits have had a positive impact on electricity arrears – with the level of arrears reducing – but have tended to rebound quickly to pre-credit levels.”
While the CRU says it encourages energy suppliers to “reduce prices as soon as possible”, it notes that many bought into long-term contracts – or hedging agreements – which mean the ongoing fall in wholesale prices may not be seen by domestic customers “for a period of time”.
The CRU statement adds that it does not expect to see a “marked increase” in disconnections, despite the moratorium ending at the end of March, because of the “thorough process suppliers must follow” and the fact that suppliers “will not disconnect engaging customers”.
Wholesale cost reductions should be passed on to consumers – McGrath
The Minister for Finance has said he is calling on utility companies to do more for customers because they have enjoyed big reductions in their wholesale costs.
Michael McGrath said those cuts have not been passed on to retail customers yet and “it’s well past time” that they were.
The Government, he said, would “consider what more can be done to help customers over the months ahead, particularly in the context of the budget” but the State “can’t do everything through taxpayers’ money”.
The Taoiseach, meanwhile, said it may be the case that over 20% of people are in arrears on their gas bills because energy credits were taken off electricity and not gas bills.
Leo Varadkar advised those in arrears to engage with their provider.
He also said that he expects electricity and gas prices to decrease later this year.