Price increases and heating: what to do when the gas bill comes?
Given the speed at which things are changing, I’m reluctant to start examining energy costs.
But last Tuesday’s announcement of the most extraordinary hikes in gas (up 39 percent) and electricity prices (up 27 percent) that Bord Gáis has ever seen – the others will no doubt follow – is certainly a low point for consumers.
The company says the move is “regrettable” and “unwelcome” as it ends its winter price promise, which had protected customers from price hikes during the colder months. This is a culmination of the increases it hasn’t made.
It had little choice. We’re not producing oil and not enough gas. Renewable energy, while growing, is still in its infancy in terms of self-sufficiency.
The continued rise in wholesale costs, exacerbated by Ukraine’s unpredictable war, means no respite for consumers, even with the government’s soon-to-be-deployed mass-aid weapon, the €200 rebate.
Bonkers.ie‘s Daragh Cassidy says it’s “unfortunately not surprising given the huge surge in gas prices we’ve seen in wholesale markets in recent months”, adding that the scale of the rise is “unprecedented”.
He points to the 35 or more market gains in the last year, so Bord Gáis has decided to dump all the bad news in one fell swoop. One probably hopes so anyway.
The net effect is around 350 euros per year, plus per household for gas and 340 euros for electricity, in addition to the almost double increases across all providers since mid-2020. The even worse news, if possible, is that energy is such an important element in commercial sectors that everything from data storage to fertilizer for crops will skyrocket.
What can I do?
In terms of our expenses, what can we do instead of wringing our hands (not least to keep ourselves warm)? The most important thing is to get a picture of your current situation.
– Find out who your provider is and what tariff you have. They are not all the same. In fact, the “Standard” tariff is the most expensive of all and is reserved for the lazy customer who renews his contract without thinking twice.
– Find your GPRN (gas) and MPRN (electricity) number at the top of your bill. This locates your house. Call your provider and ask them how much gas/electricity your specific household has used in the last 12 months. Use this as a basis for comparison.
The “national average” is 4,200 kWh (electricity) and 11,000 kWh (gas). There is absolutely nothing you can do about the PSO levy (which will be reduced), VAT, the CO2 tax or the basic charges, so ignore them. It’s time to be reckless with what you can do, not what you can’t.
– Use a site like Switcher.ie or Bonkers.ie, fill in your details and see what’s available. The good news is that there are many suppliers in the energy market. Yes, they all work on the same pricing basis, but new customers are their lifeblood, so expect to be offered everything from a free gadget to a gift card. Don’t be picky or loyal. Go with the bribe!
– Make sure you don’t have a contract (ask – they have to tell you). If not, find out when you are. Erupting will cost you €50 per utility, so weigh it up.
– Switching takes 5 minutes. Nobody calls. You’ll receive a contract by email or post, pay your final bill (read your own meter unless you have a ‘smart meter’) and your next bill will simply be in a different envelope.
– Pay by e-bill and direct debit to get a better deal.
– Don’t assume dual-fuel (both bills together) has better value. They can be, but they are not given. Five providers only sell electricity.
Are there any additional benefits you are entitled to? On the next bill (from April), every household will receive a credit of 200 euros, but around 320,000 families will receive a winter fuel allowance increased by 125 euros. It is usually paid as part of the household benefits package to everyone over the age of 70 and in certain circumstances to some younger people. Ask your municipal council, the citizens’ information office or call the social welfare office (0818 200 400). The form is called NFS1 and can be downloaded from citizeninformation.ie.
MABS is Ireland’s Money Advice Bureau. They provide budget information and can act as a liaison to energy suppliers to help with a payment plan. In fact, it is a requirement of the Utility Regulation Commission that vulnerable customers who need a constant supply of power for medical or other reasons cannot be switched off, even if they default. Every supplier has a hotline for this, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Some people prefer to even out their costs over 12 months and most providers will let you do this. That means you won’t pay more in the winter than in the summer and might be suitable for someone on a fixed income. Ask if you can do this.
If you’re a member of a credit union, their budget plan, which requires you to pay a portion of your income each month to cover all your bills, takes the stress out of seeing them through the mailbox.
And some money-saving tips
“Energy prices have skyrocketed in the last 12 months. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they’re going to stop anytime soon,” says Eoin Clarke from Switcher.ie. “It’s going to be a challenge for those who are already struggling, so the best thing you can do is make sure you’re not paying more than you have to and see if you’re eligible for help with your energy bills. “
He has some great tips that can help you with the totals, and some might surprise you.
– Draft: from a dachshund draft excluder (20€, harveynorman.ie) on interior doors to sealing your mailbox and front door base with a brush seal (approx.
– Household appliances: heating water costs the most money. So only fill the kettles with what you need. Use the lowest temperature setting on the washing machine (modern detergents mean you should never go above 40 degrees); Unplug electrical devices (TV, laptop, etc.) overnight as standby mode consumes power.
– Radiator: Bleed them to get rid of trapped air that reduces efficiency. Get to know your thermostat; 19 degrees is “normal” so stop turning up the heat and turn it off if it’s too hot. Even and controlled is best. If you’ll be mostly in one room, consider a portable oil-filled radiator instead.
– Clothing: Layering is the key winter trend for heat style! Natural fibers (cotton, silk, wool) store heat and allow the skin to breathe. A stylish beanie hat will keep you warm indoors too.
https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/price-hikes-and-heating-what-to-do-when-the-gas-bill-comes-41463724.html Price increases and heating: what to do when the gas bill comes?