Charity warns of spate of electricity, gas disconnections
THERE are still too many families having electricity and gas disconnected despite a large fall in the numbers affected, a charity has warned.
The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) says 10,122 electricity customers and 5,895 gas customers were disconnected last year, but a third of those were suspected vacant properties.
Closer monthly monitoring has been introduced by the CER, which expressed concern at how utility companies were continuing to operate.
The fall in disconnections for non-payment on 2012 – 31pc down for electricity customers and almost 16pc down for gas users – is being attributed to a rise in settlements involving the installation of pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) meters.
The number of electric customers being given a meter as part of the scheme across all companies rose by 80pc last year to 26,591. Another 18,519 gas customers accepted a meter, a rise of 45pc on 2012.
Electric Ireland told the regulator it had reached agreement on arrears with 200,000 customers. But the meters remain a condition of bill settlement on arrears.
The St Vincent de Paul charity says the number of disconnections is still too high.
"There are a very troubling number of households who must resort to payment plans," said a spokesman. "In Great Britain, for example, there were just 453 electricity disconnections in 2012 and in the same year SVP provided €11.1m in helping people in Ireland meet their energy costs."
He said there should be wider use of PAYGO and payment plans should be more affordable.
The CER is to publish monthly statistics on disconnections, with the energy firms being asked to provide more information.