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Electricity and gas disconnections down this year

The number of households that have had their gas or electricity disconnected up to August this year has dropped compared to 2010, a new report shows.

Image: John Birdsall/John Birdsall/Press Association Images

A NEW REPORT shows that there has been a drop in the number of people having their electricity and gas disconnected in their home.

The Commission for Energy Regulation, the independent body responsible for overseeing the regulation of Ireland’s electricity and gas sectors, released its Electricity and Gas Disconnections Report January – August 2011 yesterday.

It notes that due to the downturn in the economy there has been a rise in the number of customers struggling to pay utility bills.

The CER is currently working with suppliers to extend the rollout of Prepayment Meters (PPMs) in the gas and electricity markets.

Electricity

The number of electricity disconnections rose from 1,155 in January 2011 to 2, 065 in August 2011, meaning 11, 773 in total.

There was only one month where the disconnections dropped – February (955).

Household disconnections account for 81 per cent of disconnections from January – August 2011.

Over a 4 month sample period from May – August 2011, Airtricity has the highest rate of disconnections – 18/10,000 – and Bord Gais Energy has the lowest disconnection rate at approximately 3/10,000.

Electric Ireland,with the largest customer base, is just below the average disconnection rate at approximately 6/10,000.

Energia shows the second highest disconnection rate at approximately 14/10,000 for business customers.

However, household electricity disconnection rates in the first eight months of 2011 were lower, on average, than the same period in 2010, by  -9.80 per cent

Business disconnections were down 0.66 per cent. This means an overall drop of – 7.99 per cent.

The CER said:

While this is a positive development, the total numbers are still very high and the CER continues to be concerned by the absolute levels.

Gas

In 2011, the number of disconnections for gas steadily increased, from 112 in January to 836 in August.

But the levels for January to May were significantly lower than the same period in 2010.

Household disconnections accounted for 84 per cent of the disconnections.

Airtricity and Vayu had the lowest levels of disconnection at 3 per 10,000 and 5 per 10,000 disconnections respectively.

The Bord Gais Energy disconnection rate is just at the average at 10 per 10,000 disconnections, and they have the largest customer base.

Gas disconnection rates in the first eight months of 2011 were lower, on average, than the same period in 2010.

Household disconnections dropped by -32.6 per cent between 2010 and 2011.

Business disconnections, however, rose by 217.4 per cent -from 178 in total in 2010 to 565 in 2011 .

The decrease in 2011 for domestic disconnections coincides with an increase in the number of prepayment meters  installed this year.

CER commented:

The data on disconnections in the first eight months of 2011 shows a greater overall reduction for gas than electricity. While this is a very positive development, the total numbers are very high and CER continues to be concerned by the absolute levels.
The data also shows a variance between suppliers and the  CER has commenced an audit of the application of the relevant Codes of Practice by all domestic suppliers.

A spokesperson for ESB Electric Ireland said that it has 240,000 payment plans with customers in arrears this year – a threefold rise on 80,000 in 2010.

The spokesperson said ESB Electric Ireland pro actively engages with customers who are experiencing difficulties, with a view to putting in place affordable, sustainable and mutually acceptable payment plans.

It also works closely with the Money Advise & Budgeting Service (MABS), St Vincent de Paul and other voluntary agencies.

ESB Electric Ireland also offers customers a Household Budget Price Plan which offers a discount of up to 6% if they sign up to An Post ‘s Household Budget Scheme or enter a payment plan to address arrears.

It is installing around 300 pre-payment meters per month in a further effort to avoid disconnection.

It has seen a >40% reduction in the number of customer disconnections compared to the same period last year.

Its bad debt write-off for 2011 is forecast to be similar to the 2010 outcome of €20 million.

Bord Gáis advises customers who may have difficulty paying their bills to contact them immediately so that they can offer help and advice.

It says it will be as flexible as possible and could consider a payment plan. It also advises people to contact MABS.

Read: Regulator approves Bord Gais request for 22 per cent price hike>

Read: Cheaper electricity on the way after regulator allows ESB price cuts>

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