Recent data from EU statistical agency Eurostat shows that Ireland has the second highest rate of households who cannot afford to properly heat their home, and the highest percentage of utility arrears, among peer countries in the EU. And with energy prices increasing in 2018 the SVP is worried.
This year we’ve seen a raft of price increases from the country's energy suppliers and data from Eurostat shows that it’s affecting people’s ability to heat their homes. And the recent rise in fuel, gas and electricity has the SVP worried, particularly as 28% of the population were estimated to be living in fuel poverty in 2017 before the latest price rises even kicked in.
While the government recently increased the length of the time that the fuel allowance is received by one week per season, this will do little to combat the ballooning cost of energy.
Caroline Fahey from the SVP says: “For many thousands of people that SVP supports, opening a utility bill is a major source of stress and these price increases are really going to hit struggling households hard, as so many are already finding it difficult to make ends meet. It also means that the increase in the Fuel Allowance in Budget 2019 will be completely wiped out by the latest hikes.”
They also said that they are worried that prices may further increase in the winter months, with the most vulnerable set to suffer, and they bemoaned the recent hike in prices, stating they would cost the average household an extra €300 per annum.
However, both Electric Ireland and PrePayPower have stated they will delay further increases for the time being.
Caroline Fahey also went on to focus on the pay-as-you-go system as it was throwing up an interesting dichotomy.
While she pointed out that the system had been successful in significantly reducing the number of disconnections among those most in need, she spoke of two key problems with the system.
“Another downside is that when households have greater control over their energy spend, they are more likely to go without” she said.
They also found that pay-as-you-go customers were paying more, with those using this method paying between €103 to €274 extra per year.
The average annual household price of electricity is now €1,005 while the average annual gas bill is now €817.69, making a combined average cost of €1,822.91.
The SVP, the largest voluntary charity organisation in Ireland, called out the swelling tolls, after they spent over €4 million in 2017 helping households with energy and utility costs.
They further called on suppliers to put safeguards in place to protect the most vulnerable of their customers, while calling on the state to tighten housing regulations to improve energy efficiency.
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