AROUND one in four domestic gas customers have switched to get cheaper gas.
The figures were revealed as gas consumers braced for a major increase in Bord Gais Energy prices of around 22pc, due to be announced by the end the month.
The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) said the entry of Airtricity and ESB Electric Ireland into the gas market gave "a significant boost" to the gas domestic retail competition since the middle of last year.
"Over 150,000 customers switched their gas supplier from January 2010 to June 2011," the CER said.
"Over this 18-month period, approximately 23pc of Irish gas customers switched supplier."
Nearly all of Ireland's gas is bought abroad and the international cost of gas accounts for almost half the price of gas paid by Irish customers, it said.
Customers saw gas prices fall significantly in 2009 and 2010 as a result of a drop in international prices, with the CER cutting regulated prices by 25pc.
This reduction, coupled with "strong competition" among suppliers, resulted in Irish gas prices being "well below" the EU average.
"The wholesale gas cost has risen dramatically again, more than doubling in price over the past two years," the CER said.
"As a result of these higher gas commodity costs, there is now significant upward pressure on customers' gas and -- to a lesser extent -- electricity prices in many EU countries."
UK suppliers have increased their gas prices by about 25pc over the past year.
Bord Gais Energy has applied to the CER for a 28pc rise in residential gas tariffs from October.
"Following a rigorous review of BG Energy's submission, the CER proposes to disallow certain requested supply costs in keeping with the current regulatory mechanism for BG Energy."
Late last month, the CER proposed to approve a gas price rise "in the order of" 22pc.
CER admitted the gas price rise will add to the pressure faced by many customers in the current economic climate and encouraged them to "shop around" -- and to use energy efficiency measures.
It also said that "debt-hopping" energy customers changing supplier to avoid paying arrears or a disconnection, and the high general level of debt, were acknowledged as serious issues for the industry.
It is introducing a "bad debt flag" in the electricity and gas markets to provide customer protection and help the market develop a competitive manner.