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Dublin: 0°C Sunday 11 April 2021

357pc increase in gas disconnections in 15 months – regulator

The Commissioner for Energy Regulation says 2,373 people had gas disconnected between April and June last year.

Energy commissioner Dermot Nolan said his 'best guess' would be that consumer gas prices would not increase in 2013.
Energy commissioner Dermot Nolan said his 'best guess' would be that consumer gas prices would not increase in 2013.
Image: Oireachtas screengrab

THE NUMBER of households whose natural gas services were being disconnected rose by 357 per cent in 15 months, the Public Accounts Committee has been told.

Data from the Commission for Energy Regulation showed that 2,373 households had their services disconnected between April and June 2012, compared to 519 in the first quarter of 2011.

The number of disconnections almost doubled between the final quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, when the number of disconnections rose from 840 to 1,717.

Energy commissioner Dermot Nolan said the rate of disconnections was worrying, but commented that the regulator believed about 35 per cent of gas disconnections were made as a result of a premises being vacated.

“Our sense is that some of the gas disconnections have increased because of the vacancy issue,” Nolan said.

The number of electricity disconnections for 2011, the last full year for which figures are available, stood at 14,200 – peaking in the third quarter when 5,000 disconnections were carried out.

2,960 disconnections were carried out in the second quarter of 2012, the last quarter for which figures were given.

Nolan said about 25 per cent of these connections were as a result of premises being vacated, and commented that while Airtricity previously had a higher disconnection rate than the other providers (Electric Ireland and Bord Gais Energy), it was no longer an “outlier” in this regard.

2013 gas increase cannot be ruled out, but unlikely

Nolan assured TDs that while his regulator could not rule out a further increase to consumer gas prices in 2013, this was “dependent on the price of gas” on the world’s markets.

He insisted that if the price of gas was to fall on these markets, consumers should see the benefit passed on.

“My honest best guess now is that there would be no change,” he told the committee.

I will assure you… We honestly try to keep prices as low as we possibly can.

Nolan added that the commission was looking into the prospect of full deregulation in the gas market, ending the arrangement where it directly regulates the price of Bord Gais services.

This is because Bord Gais is still seen as a “dominant player” in the market, with 70 per cent of all connections, Nolan explained.

Full deregulation would see the gas market come similar to the electricity market, where suppliers are free to set their own prices subject to minimum service criteria monitored by the Regulator itself.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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