Irish energy supplier Bord Gáis hikes rates for gas, electricity

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Saturday, September 3, 2022

According to BP, fossil fuels comprised 83% of Ireland's energy consumption in 2021.
Image: Our World in Data.

Price hikes set by Ireland's Bord Gáis Energy yesterday mean residential customers will pay an average 48.25 extra on electricity and €43.80 on gas each month. This came after similar announcements by competitors Electric Ireland, SSE Airtricity and Prepay Power.

The energy supplier will lift the rate for electricity by an average of 34% and gas by 39% effective October 2, citing an increase in wholesale energy costs that "leaves us with no choice." Standing charges will be unaffected. This means the average customer will pay an extra €579 and €526 per year in electricity and gas, based on an average consumption of 4,200 kilowatt hours (kWh) and 11,000 kWh for electricity and gas, respectively.

On the same day, Russian energy giant Gazprom said it would halt supplies of natural gas to Europe indefinitely through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline until a leak is repaired.

In March, Bord Gáis raised costs on its 513,000 commercial and residential customers nationwide by 27% on electricity and 39% on gas, while last year it three times hiked rates for electricity and twice for gas. Daragh Cassidy of comparison site estimates from this time last year, bills have gone up an extra €1,300 for electricity and €1,000 for gas in total.

Cassidy told RTÉ News "[the] average gas and electricity bill is now around €4,000. That’s close to the UK price cap of £3,549", from where over 70% of Ireland's gas is supplied.

In a statement, managing director for Bord Gáis Energy Dave Kirwan said the company "deeply regret[s] having to raise our prices but the scale of increases in wholesale energy costs leaves us with no choice." Promising to "continue to do everything we can to reduce the impact on our customers and keep our rates as competitive as possible", Kirwan pledged one tenth of operating profits toward an energy support fund in partnership with organisations for those unable to afford the increase.

A financial report from July 28 for parent company Centrica, based in the United Kingdom, revealed Bord Gáis' operating profits increased 74% from last year in the first half of 2022 to £33 million (€38 million). This was in part due to the resumption of activity from Whitegate power station near Cork.

Martin addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg on June 8, 2022.
Image: European Parliament.

Mounting utility costs put pressure on the government, strengthened by a €6.3 billion surplus collected in the eight months to August, to increase support for families struggling with the cost of living. Speaking after Electric Ireland Thursday lifted residential rates on electricity and gas by 26.7% and 37.5%, respectively effective October 1, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the European Commission will "bring forward emergency provisions to try and deal with the market".

Martin attributed the latest to the "broader exponential rise in energy prices", and promised a "demand reduction approach" to lowering consumers' overall energy use. Concerning financial supports Martin promised "we will use the Budget and also, in tandem with the Budget, the cost of living package to alleviate pressures on households."

Yesterday's record accrual for the Exchequer was bolstered by an unexpectedly high corporate tax intake for August, and double-digit increases on last year for income tax and VAT. Speaking on the figures, finance minister Paschal Donohoe said government "must strike a balance between protecting the most vulnerable households and firms from a once-in-a-generation energy price shock, while at the same time ensuring that policy doesn’t worsen the inflationary cycle".

He contrasted the stronger economy after the end of Covid-19 restrictions with "inflationary pressures, resulting from the surge in energy prices from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's war" with Ukraine that "are eroding real incomes and undermining growth prospects both domestically and in our main trading partners".

But Labour leader Ivana Bacik urged "an unprecedented, urgent and short term response by government" in response to what "is unsustainable for people, families and small businesses". It includes instating a windfall tax on excess profits by energy companies, which Donohoe said the state is considering, and immediate price caps and expanding eligibility for fuel allowance.

European Union ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels next week, which Martin said would include immediate action to temper the price of gas and "a more structured reform of the market over the next twelve months".

The G7 countries, which include EU members France, Germany and Italy yesterday agreed to introduce a price ceiling on Russian oil, likely effective December. Since its invasion of Ukraine began, the Russian government has cut energy supplies to Europe, forcing prices higher and threatening continental blackouts. At the time of Nord Stream 1's suspension of operations the pipeline was supplying one-fifth its daily capacity, according to senior associate Jacob Mandel for energy consultancy firm Aurora.