BORD Gais risks being thrown into crisis if a new chief executive is not found before the current boss John Mullins leaves at the end of next month.
Insiders, who declined to be named, blame the public sector pay cap of €250,000 for hampering recruitment efforts.
One senior figure said the pay cap is making it almost impossible to find a candidate who is qualified to run a major energy company.
Efforts to recruit a new chief executive began in September, with head-hunters Merc brought in to help manage the process for the Bord Gais board led by Rose Hynes.
Now with just weeks to go before Mr Mullins is due to step down, the post is still being advertised. It means an interim manager is likely to be appointed at the end of the year, but the situation is likely to push the question of the pay cap back to the top of the agenda at the start of next year.
The Bord Gais case will test the resolve of ministers to stick with the cap because 2013 will be an extra- ordinarily demanding year for Bord Gais, making the senior appointment unusually critical.
The company has been ordered to find a buyer for its Bord Gais Energy unit – the retail and power generation parts of the state-owned company – in the first three months of the year.
That deal is to be the test case for the "New Era" scheme to dispose of €4bn of state assets.
The company has also been charged with setting up the first national water company, again in 2013.
That mammoth task will mean taking control of water infrastructure from 34 local authorities.
The new head will also be the public face of the plan to introduce water meters in homes across the country, starting from next year.