Thursday 20 July 2017

Bord Gais customers face price hikes of up to 20pc

Aideen Sheehan and Siobhan Creaton

HOUSEHOLDERS are facing hikes of up to €250 in their electricity and gas bills, even though record numbers have already fallen behind with payments.

Bord Gais said yesterday that hikes of close to 20pc in gas and up to 10pc in their electricity prices are expected in coming months, because of soaring world energy prices.

This would add around €100 to the average yearly electricity bill of €1,000 and €145 to the average gas bill of €737.

Chief Executive John Mullins, who saw his pay rise to €399,000 last year including a €60,000 bonus, said that double-digit increases in gas prices were "inevitable".

More than half a million gas customers and 460,000 electricity customers of Bord Gais will be affected.

Mr Mullins said: "At the moment I would be looking at a 10-20pc increase, probably closer to the 20 than the 10."

Some 115,000 Bord Gais customers are already over two months in arrears on their bills -- three times more than the figure for last year.

In its annual report yesterday, the energy company reported unprecedented bad debts of €26.4m due to a surge in the number of customers who cannot pay their bills.

It admitted that managing customer debt will remain "a major challenge" for some time to come.

Bord Gais electricity customers can expect an increase in the region of 5-10pc in the next six months.

Mr Mullins said it will be putting a case for a price increase to the Commission for Energy Regulation in July and if approved it would be introduced in October.

He urged anyone in difficulty to get on a payment plan to avail of new pay-as-you-go meters that would allow them manage their energy costs better. Around 3,300 customers had got the new meters so far this year, with 1,400 meters installed in March alone.

Profit

He added that despite the difficult economic circumstances, the company made a €120m profit, which is broadly unchanged on the previous year.

Turnover rose by 12pc to €1.5bn in 2010 at a time when it cut prices to attract new customers. The group has total debts of €1.85bn.

Mr Mullins was asked if it was appropriate in the current climate that he had received a €5,000 increase in pay, bringing his total remuneration to nearly twice that of the Taoiseach.

He said he had taken a voluntary 10pc cut in total pay in the past two years, and had not received any further pay reduction requests.

He said he had come from the private sector to which he would probably return, and that his contract was due to end next year.

"I work on behalf of the citizens of the state, who own the company, and in the last couple of years there's no doubt that Bord Gais has made a real impact," he said.

see editorial comment: page 20

Irish Independent

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