MORE than 300,000 electricity customers will get a reprieve from fuel price hikes after Bord Gais announced plans to freeze prices for the winter.
The company said that prices would remain unchanged until at least March, and has vowed to remain the cheapest electricity provider on the market.
The move follows price hikes announced by Electric Ireland, Airtricity, Pinergy and Prepaypower.ie in recent weeks, ranging from 1.7pc to 3.5pc, in part fuelled by increases in the cost of using the electricity network.
However, Electric Ireland has vowed to absorb the increases until January 1 next, when average hikes of 1.7pc will be imposed.
While Bord Gais Energy (BGE) would not be drawn on how long the price freeze would last, it did say they would remain unchanged throughout the winter.
"We understand energy costs are a key concern for customers coming into winter, which is why we're freezing our residential electricity prices, which are already the lowest standard prices in Ireland," BGE managing director Dave Kirwan said.
"Not only that, but Bord Gais Energy is the only supplier to offer Tesco Clubcard points, which customers can use to pay their energy or grocery bills.
"Our customers can be reassured that whatever happens to wholesale costs we will continue to ensure that our standard prices continue to be the lowest of any supplier in the market."
The company said it offered the cheapest standard electricity price, and is €49.11 cheaper per year than Electric Ireland, and €79.30 cheaper per year than Airtricity, based on on average usage of 5,300 kwh per year.
The move came after the regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation, increased the Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy by €17.06 from October 1 to cover the cost of generating renewable energy and use of peat.
The increase must be passed on to customers or absorbed by the companies.
Most of the major suppliers have announced price hikes, with Electric Ireland saying its rise would add about €1.50 to the average electricity bill, with the PSO levy adding another €1.42 per month – or €35.04 per year. The hike has been deferred until January 1 next.
Prepaypower.ie increased its prices last week, adding 13.33 cent per day to bills – or €48.65 a year. Pinergy also said prices would increase by 4.1 cents per day to cover the increase in the PSO, or €14.96 a year.
Airtricity said it would increase prices by 3.5pc, which would take effect from November 1, adding €40.50 to bills.
The Consumers' Association of Ireland welcomed the price freezes, saying they would help families in the run-up to Christmas.
"It's positive because there was consternation that they were going to increase prices from October 1, which was quite worrying," chief executive Dermott Jewell said.
"It eases the pain for a short period of time, which is going to help a lot of people. The pressure on families in the run-up to Christmas is frightening.
"A freeze is filled with positivity and puts in perspective what is going to be a very difficult year. In January, many of the Budget provisions will come into effect, including the property tax."
Experts have warned that the era of cheap energy is over, with the International Energy Agency predicting that natural gas will play a central role in meeting global energy needs over the coming decades.
Further price hikes are expected.