by Charlie Weston
A MILLION homeowners are set to be hit by a steep rise in electricity prices from the start of next month.
The decision by ESB/ Electric Ireland to raise prices by 5.9pc will see the average bill shoot up by €64 a year.
Householders will now be faced with annual payments of close to €1,200 for the power going into their homes.
The state-owned power company has around one million electricity customers.
And in a double whammy for consumers, Electric Ireland said that gas supplied by it to households would also rise in price by 8.5pc. This is expected to add €70 to the average annual bill and push it close to €1,000.
This means homes with both gas and electricity are facing combined costs of €2,200 a year.
Homes that have signed up to get both electricity and gas from Electric Ireland (the new name for the ESB) will be hit with two-monthly bills that are €22 higher.
This will total €132 a year for the so-called 'dual fuel deals'.
The Electric Ireland increases come just days after Bord Gaiswas granted permission to charge an extra 8.5pc for domestic gas from the start of next month.
Experts said this would push the average home's annual gas costs up by €70 to close to €1,000 a year.
Airtricity is reviewing its electricity and gas prices.
Electricity prices had been expected to rise after the energy regulator increased the charges for use of the national network.
General manager of Electric Ireland, Liam Molloy, blamed higher distribution and transmission costs for the electricity rise.
He claimed the company had avoided passing on some of the higher costs from a stronger sterling currency and higher international oil prices.
Mr Molloy argued that the electricity price hike would work out at just €1.22 a week.
"We are acutely aware of the financial pressures facing our customers and we have done all we can to minimise the increase," he said.
Simon Moynihan of price comparison site Bonkers.ie warned that Airtricity was likely to hike its electricity and gas prices also, with Flogas set to do the same on domestic gas prices.
He advised anyone thinking of switching at the moment to hold off until it was clear how much Airtricity and Flogas would raise their tariffs.
"Wait until the dust settles on all these price rises and then we will be able to see who offers the best value," Mr Moynihan said.
Families have been hammered by a series of rises in the price of fuel which put up the cost of heating and lighting their homes as well as running cars.
Earlier this week, it emerged that it was now €300 more expensive to fill a tank of home-heating oil than it was two years ago. It costs close to €1,000 for 1,000 litre of heating oil. And checks by the Irish Independent revealed that more than 300,000 people were struggling to pay their energy bills.
St Vincent de Paul said it was spending €8.8m paying electricity and gas bills for people unable to meet the bills and helping to avoid disconnections.
- Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor