What the year holds for:


With global commodity prices on the rise, Irish consumers can expect to see prices rise when they go to the petrol or diesel pumps, pay their ESB bills, or do their shopping, writes Niamh Hennessy.
There's plenty of fun to be had in the electricity and gas markets as providers clamour for business. Ever since the launch of the Bord Gais Big Switch Campaign, consumers have become more aware of the savings that can be made. Airtricity and Flogas have bother taken on the big-hitters, offering lower prices to customers.
In the last year figures show that electricity has gone up 3.2% while natural gas has fallen by 1.4%. Regulated energy prices have remained stable through 2010 and will do for gas until October 2011.
Simon Moynihan of consumer website Bonkers.ie said that the coldest winter months in living memory has seen demand for gas shoot up and sent wholesale gas prices skyrocketing. Suppliers like Bord Gais and Airtrictiy are now paying up to 35% more for the energy they supply to households than they were almost a year ago hhe said. During the cold spell, British energy suppliers responded to higher wholesale costs by hiking prices for their customers by up to 9%. "However, in Ireland there was better news for cash-strapped consumers. The energy regulator announced earlier this month that household gas prices would not be allowed to change until October 2011, keeping Irish prices lower than the European average" said Mr Moynihan.
Bord Gais is the only regulated gas supplier and is not allowed to change gas prices without permission from the energy regulator. Flogas and Airtricity, the other two Irish gas suppliers, are not regulated and can set their own prices.
"However, in an ongoing bid to win customers from Bord Gais, both companies have maintained lower-prices tariffs despite higher costs and increased demand.
"In the short term,  this is good for Irish consumers and they can expect home energy prices to remain stable until at least October. With increased competition and a re-branded ESB shortly expected to enter the arket with lower-prices deals on both gas and electricity, customers could even reduce their home energy costs in 2011, especially those that have never switched suppliers," he added.
It hasn't all been good news for Irish households though. Last May saw the introduction of the carbon tax, which saw the average gas bill go from around €684 to €727 - an increase of €43 or 6%.

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