DONAL O'DONOVAN – 18 APRIL 2013
GAS customers are facing new price hikes despite Bord Gais increasing its annual profits to €121m.
The energy regulator has cleared Bord Gais to raise what it charges for using its network by 10pc.
If passed on in full, it would add up to between €8 and €10 a year for every customer.
The news came after Bord Gais yesterday announced an almost 30pc rise in profits last year to €121m.
Bord Gais owns the infrastructure that all gas companies use to supply homes.
While demand for gas is falling because of the economic downturn, the cost of running the network remains the same, meaning it is costing Bord Gais more to deliver each unit of gas.
The company's chief financial officer Michael G O'Sullivan revealed yesterday that the energy regulator had given it the go-ahead to hike the tariff it charges for access to the network by 10pc.
Each operator must now decide whether to pass the higher charges on to customers.
Bord Gais has not yet made its decision on increasing bills, Mr O'Sullivan said.
However, energy expert Simon Moynihan of price comparison website Bonkers.ie said consumers should now expect to be hit with higher charges by all gas operators, not just Bord Gais, as the prices are passed on.
The standing charges are worked out on a daily rate, and range between €79.24 a year from Bord Gais to €103.50 for Airtricity customers.
Bord Gais said yesterday that 94,000 gas-and-electricity customers were already behind on their bills at the end of 2012.
It has 90 staff working in arrears and €29m set aside to cope with bad debts, Mr O'Sullivan said. The situation has improved compared with 2011, he added.
The figures were announced after Bord Gais published its annual report for 2012.
The current year is already shaping up to be a huge challenge for Bord Gais.
It has been ordered by the Government to sell its Bord Gais Energy unit and set up the new Irish Water agency.