FAMILIES are facing a winter of higher costs for electricity after a new round of price rises kicked off.
Airtricity became the first of the three electricity suppliers to announce a price rise that will take effect for householders from November.
A combination of higher electricity and gas prices will mean families will be facing bumper bills of €2,200 a year.
Airtricity said it would charge households an additional 3.5pc from November 1. It will mean an extra €40 a year for families.
The company has 380,000 residential customers and does not need approval from the regulator for a price change.
The rise comes after all domestic electricity bills already went up by €20 a year to pay for subsidies to supply wind and peat-generated power.
And it comes after a €20-a-year rise in the price of gas supplied by Bord Gais, Electric Ireland and Airtricity that takes effect from next Tuesday. Flogas prices go up by the same amount later in the month.
Families who heat and light their homes with electricity and gas now face having to pay out an additional €80 a year.
The latest rise means the average family will now end up paying €1,156 a year for electricity, Airtricity said.
Combined standard gas and electricity bills will go from €2,158 up to €2,234, according to Simon Moynihan, an energy expert with price comparison site Bonkers.ie.
Mr Moynihan added: "I would say with absolute certainty that Electric Ireland and Bord Gais will increase their electricity prices by the same amount.
"In previous years, all suppliers have increased prices at the same time and by similar amounts and we expect this year to be no different."
Electric Ireland has 1.3 million domestic electricity customers, and Bord Gais Energy has 317,000 households getting an electricity supply from it.
The combination of rises in electricity prices and gas costs mean that households could see the average family paying close to €2,200 a year for both energy sources for the first time.
Airtricity said the price rise was outside its control. The company's managing director Stephen Wheeler said the cost of using the networks to distribute electricity had risen.
"As a result we cannot continue to absorb the sustained increases in energy costs that we are facing," he said.
"That's why the price increase that we are announcing today, although completely regrettable, cannot be avoided."
The National Consumer Agency said recently that those who switched energy providers can save up to €240 a year.
Householders have been told by the energy regulator to shop around for the best-value tariff.
However, only around 16 out of every 100 consumers have so far moved their electricity and gas accounts to a different company.