HOUSEHOLDERS are likely to be hit with further energy price hikes later this year.
As new figures revealed that consumers here already paid more for electricity than most of our European neighbours, the energy regulator warned last night that higher prices for both gas and electricity could be on the way.
This is because the euro's fall against sterling is pushing up the wholesale price of gas, which is used in 60pc of the electricity we generate.
"We buy over 90pc of our gas from the UK and, unless the euro recovers, this could lead to increases in energy costs later in the year," the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) said.
New figures from Eurostat show that household electricity prices here are higher than the EU average -- and increased nearly twice as much last year as elsewhere in Europe.
They show that last year's full deregulation of the electricity market has failed to deliver lower prices.
In fact, they rose by 11.3pc last year, compared with 6.3pc in the EU, and are now the fifth-highest in Europe. And Irish consumers now pay a massive 32pc more than our neighbours in Britain for electricity.
Gas prices here also soared by 17pc last year, but are marginally below the EU average.
Electricity in Ireland costs €20.90 per 100kWh, compared with a European average of €18.40, with only Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Cyprus charging more.
Customers in Britain pay just €15.80 per 100kWh, while their gas prices are also lower.
The typical household here pays around €942 a year for electricity, according to energy comparison site bonkers.ie
It means any further increases could push the average annual bill close to €1,000.
ESB Electric Ireland said the Eurostat figures reflected households with a lower electricity consumption than was typical here.
Around 200,000 energy customers are already in arrears on their bills, and 17,794 had their electricity disconnected last year, while the gas was switched off in 5,089 homes.
- Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent