€250 hike in energy bills on the way

By Niamh Hennessy

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
This article appeared on page 1 of the Irish Examiner
EVERY home will be hit by an average €250 a year hike in their gas and electricity bills when a range of price increases planned for the coming months take effect. In further bad news for under-pressure households, Airtricity’s half-a-million customers were yesterday told electricity prices will rise by 12.3% from the start of September, while gas prices will go up by 21.2% from October 1. 
ESB meanwhile, which has 1.2 million electricity customers and around 20,000 gas customers, is expected to announce similar price increases which are likely to take effect around October. 
Bord Gáis increased their electricity prices by 12% at the start of this month and are expected to push gas prices up by 22% from October. 
Simon Moynihan, of consumer website Bonkers.ie, said Airtricity’s price increases come as no surprise and consumers can expect something similar from ESB and Flogas before the end of the summer. 
"This is very bad news for already hard-pressed customers, who can expect energy bills to go up by as much as €250 per year," he said. "Once the dust settles and all the increases are in, it will become more important than ever for customers to make sure they are getting the best deal possible." 
A spokesman for ESB said the company is "viewing prices" at the moment but would not confirm details of any price hike. It is expected the company will announce details of a price increase in the coming weeks. 
Some Airtricity customers will have an exit penalty of €70 attached to their contract if they decide to switch provider. They have been warned to check with the company regarding the terms of their contract. 
"These latest price hikes are very troubling, but customers should probably hold tight for a little longer before switching," said Mr Moynihan. "Once all of the price increases are in it will become clearer who is the cheapest." 
Airtricity yesterday blamed the "significant increase" in wholesale energy costs for the price increases. 
Airtricity chief executive Kevin Greenhorn said the company "very much" regretted the need to increase prices. 
"It gives us no pleasure to announce our first price increase since joining the mass domestic market in 2008. 
"Unfortunately, there has been a significant increase in wholesale energy prices and while we have done our best to absorb these costs we can no longer do so." 
Airtricity refused to reveal how many of its customers are in arrears on their bills.

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