THE ESB has refused to row back on price hikes for customers despite a four-fold increase in pre-tax profits last year.
The semi-state company recorded a profit before tax of €327.6m in the same year that it hiked prices for customers by almost 6pc. This was up from the €78.8m pre-tax profit made in 2011.
The ESB said no decision on prices had been made for this year but said there would be no reverse in the increase announced in the autumn.
"There's a very competitive market in Ireland for electricity and gas customers, there's a wide choice of suppliers and competitive price plans available," a spokeswoman said.
Last year's profits were reduced by €161m, which was set aside to deal with the costs associated with a voluntary severance scheme launched last year.
The company added 5.9pc to its electricity prices, which lumped €64 on to the average annual electricity bill for a family. The company also said that gas prices would increase by 8.5pc.
It was the second year in a row that households faced a price increase going into the winter.
John Mark McCafferty, head of social justice at St Vincent de Paul, urged those in arrears to switch to pay-as-you-go meters.
"There should be no further (price) increases given the existing stress on households especially as the impact of Budget 2013 starts to kick in regarding the changes to the social welfare acts and Finance Bil," he told the Irish Independent.
Pat O'Doherty, ESB chief executive, said the the company was attempting to work with struggling households, claiming the number of disconnections over the last two years had fallen by about a third.
"Many of our customers are experiencing considerable hardship and we continue to work sensitively with them to help them manage their bills," Mr O'Doherty said.
Disconnections in Electric Ireland fell to about 7,000 last year.
Profits after tax last year totalled €194m – of which €78m will be paid to the State by way of a dividend.
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