Entrepreneurs are calling for urgent government intervention in the energy market after warning that a nearly 250 percent increase in electricity bills is unsustainable.
Some say they are now “petrified” by what further increases this winter await.
Hotel managers, supermarket owners and small retailers have warned that soaring electricity prices have “crucified” their businesses, with many unsure they can keep up with skyrocketing costs in the coming months.
Neil Grant, general manager of the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery, West Cork, said electricity bills for the premises had risen from €7,700 in July 2019 to €18,262 in July this year.
That represents an increase of 237 per cent and Mr Grant said he feared worse was to come.
“I’ve never been more concerned about a winter season than I am about the coming winter,” he said.
“It’s shocking that I know hotels whose electricity bills are worse than ours.
“You just can’t expect companies to see their costs increase by €10,000 a month almost overnight.
“This will impact everything hotels and restaurants do as they are left with no choice but to try to look for savings in other areas.
“That could affect staff costs, spending on the local economy and even operations. We will have no choice but to try to do more with less.
“Most hotels lose money for four months in the winter – unless the government intervenes, they will face a liquidity crunch in most sectors of the economy by March.”
Mr Grant, whose 66-room hotel employs 107 people in the summer peak season, also warned that the government is not doing enough to help businesses cut their fuel bills by helping them invest in energy-efficient appliances.
He said SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) grants are virtually impossible to access, and he warned most small and medium-sized businesses wouldn’t even bother to apply because of the red tape involved.
Butcher Keith Grant, 35, from Wicklow said rising costs have made many businesses “walk in the water”.
Opening his own butcher’s shop has been a dream since he began his apprenticeship almost 20 years ago.
That dream became a reality when he opened Grant Master Butcher’s in Roundwood four years ago. He employs two full-time butchers and one part-time butcher. Mr Grant’s electricity bills have skyrocketed in recent months but his utility recently told him he was on one of the best rates available.
At the beginning of last month, he received a 43-day bill for EUR 2,965. “It was so off balance that I was convinced it must have been a misreading or something,” he said.
“I worked it out. With the same number of days last year it would have been €1,143, now it’s almost €3,000.”
Mr Grant called the supplier and a customer representative said he “should be happy with that” because if he failed to make that payment he would be fined a higher rate.
His business is tied to that rate for the next four months, but Mr Grant said he was “petrified to think about what’s going to happen”.
“We’re facing a threat that really affects us and it just feels like we’re being hung out to dry,” he said.
“I’m praying but from what I’ve seen so far I don’t expect it to be fixed.”
Roscommon supermarket owner Neil Kennedy, 44, said businesses were being asked to cope with crippling fuel bills.
In 1994 he took over management of the family run supermarket Kelly’s Londis in Boyle.
The store opened in 1939 and currently employs 17 people, making it one of the larger employers in the city.
“Our electric contract expired in April of this year and the bills have been increasing month by month since then,” Kennedy said.
“Last year my bills averaged 3,000 to 3,200 euros per month.
“The first bill with the new tariffs was €5,680 and the last bill I received for July was €8,245. This compared to €3,225 last July.
“Just last week I received a notification that the rate will increase by another 25 percent from September.”
To reduce energy use and lower his bills, Mr. Kennedy is considering purchasing a more efficient cooling system.
“What annoys me the most is that I plan to upgrade our cooling and there’s not even a subsidy for that,” he said.
“It’s going to cost me over €100,000 to upgrade it to save energy and then go to the SEAI website and there’s no help for business there.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/its-petrifying-business-owners-up-and-down-the-country-plead-for-state-help-as-energy-bills-rocket-41958101.html ‘It’s petrifying’ – Business owners across the country are appealing for government help as energy bills skyrocket