This article was written in 2011 and may contain out of date information. Browse more recent articles.
In an unprecedented and almost synchronized manoeuvre, all four Irish gas suppliers will join forces and increase prices tomorrow. Nobody with a gas supply will escape.
As though flying in formation, providers will hit hard-pressed households with staggering gas price increases of over 21%.
All four suppliers hiking prices at the same time isn’t pretty. These twenty-something percent increases will add an eye-watering €150 per year to Bord Gais bills and at least €120 per year to customers on the cheaper deals.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the energy suppliers had colluded to bring on the pain in one big blitz.
So what just happened?
Well, Bord Gais is still regulated for domestic gas. They aren’t allowed to set their own prices. Whenever they want to change rates they have to ask the regulator. So exactly two months ago they asked for a whopping 28% increase. Then a month ago the regulator said they could have 21.8% on unit rates and standing charges to take effect on October 1st.
Bord Gais was then well and truly roasted by the media while the other three suppliers watched, kept silent and learned. Then they quietly scheduled price increases of their own. One price increase announcement was made on the night of the Leaving Cert results, another at 3pm on a Friday afternoon and finally Flogas said yesterday that they will increase prices on Saturday just like everyone else. And all of these price hikes are remarkably similar to the Bord Gais increase.
So the other three suppliers have basically decided to track Bord Gais and give discounts off the regulated rates. It’ll mean that Bord Gais will be the most expensive and so they’ll continue to hemorrhage gas customers as Electric Ireland, Flogas and Airtricity chip away at them in the same way Bord Gais did with the ESB when they launched the Big Switch.
Why have prices gone up by so much?
Suppliers have unanimously blamed the international wholesale markets for price increases. Ireland imports around 90% of the gas used by households, most of it comes from the UK and prices have gone through the roof there too.
So what exactly can I expect increases to look like?
Well, we love clear charts, so with the best information we can get, we've put this one together that tells you what you can expect your bill to go up by.
There's a few caveats in this chart of course. They're at the end. All of the new tariffs and prices will be put live on the bonkers.ie energy comparison service on Saturday too.
So what can you do?
Figure out who’s cheapest for you and switch. It’s really that simple. It’s only when you show that you’re willing to move for a better deal that suppliers offer better deals. In Ireland we’re lucky because switching is very easy and it only takes a couple of weeks to change suppliers.
Very soon suppliers will be able to tell each other whether you’re in arrears with your current supplier when you go to switch. If you are behind by more than €250, it’s up to the discretion of your new supplier as to whether they take you as a customer. Sadly, it’s a sign of the times that literally hundreds of thousands of customers are in energy arrears of two months or more. And even more distressing is that these massive price hikes are going to drive thousands more into arrears.
Chart caveats: We're using national average consumption of 13,800 kWh per year in our calculations. We've used the best stand-alone deals from each provider. You can get gas cheaper from Airtricity for example, but you have to bundle electricity to do so. Unitl now, Airtricity's standing charge was higher than all other suppliers. Now they are all more or less the same at about €82 per year. That's it.