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Theherald

Families win again as household energy costs to take another cut

Laura Larkin reviews the future for energy price changes on Irish consumers.

Households are set to reap more rewards as wholesale energy prices continue to fall with another provider announcing substantial cuts to annual bills.

SSE Airtricity is the latest company to offer customers a saving on their annual electricity bill, saving the average house €57 a year.

The price cut of 5pc comes as Electric Ireland's latest price reduction comes into effect.

Gas customers with SSE Airtricity are also set to benefit, with a saving of around €44 a year on the average bill.

The company has also unveiled a new rewards scheme that will see customers who stay for two years get an extra 8pc discount on their bills. People who pay by direct debit are also able to save 4pc.

The cut is the third in a string of reductions by the company.

Falling wholesale prices and an increase in providers has been hailed as a win for the consumer, but industry experts have criticised the slow roll- out of savings for consumers.

The move by energy providers to try to hold on to their customers is a new development in the market, according to one consumer expert.

Simon Moynihan of Bonkers.ie, the price- comparison website that encourages people to seek out the best deals available if they switch providers, said companies were finally using their "war chest".

"We're seeing a move by the biggest suppliers in Ireland toward trying to keep their customers and not just acquire new ones.

VALUE

"They're doing it by having opt-in deals, so if you are thinking about switching for better value, they'll tell you 'we can give you another deal' and that's what this is all about, looking after existing customers.

"The chance that they're taking is that they may have all of their customers calling up and saying 'I want an 8pc discount'.

"The thing is that they can afford it now because wholesale prices are down extraordinarily, 35- 40pc year on year," he added.

"The leeway is now there and we are seeing suppliers use this war chest to finally offer better deals to customers.

"But the thing is you can do twice as well by taking up a new customer offer."

Another first in the ongoing energy price war is a drop in prices for gas customers, Mr Moynihan said. "The good news is that gas customers are getting a price cut, that's something that we haven't really seen from anyone else.

"We saw some small cuts over the winter but nothing substantial, so that's good news for gas customers.

"Meanwhile, it has emerged that some of the savings earned by consumers may be taken up by a rise in the Public Service Obligation levy.

The levy is imposed on household electricity bills to cover the cost of producing electricity from renewables and peat and to ensure security of supply.

The energy regulator is considering a rise of 32pc which would bring the levy to €90 per year, but it should be seen as "good news", said Mr Moynihan, because it indicates a drop in the wholesale price which leads to savings.

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