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Pre-paid electricity meters rolled out for customers in arrears

The new pre-payment meters are aimed at those who are in arrears and having trouble paying their gas or electricity bills.

Image: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP/Press Association Images

ELECTRICITY SUPPLY COMPANIES have begun rolling out new pre-payment electricity meters.

ESB Networks began its roll out yesterday. Although just 20 meters are expected to be installed this week, that is to be increased to 500 a week by December.

A spokesperson for ESB Networks said that the meters are installed on the basis of whether the customer is suitable for them – generally it is the case that the customer is in arrears on their electricity payment.

The pre-payment includes a sum that goes towards paying the money that is in arrears as well as paying for electricity.

A survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions earlier this month showed that one in four people are unable to cope with increased energy costs.

ESB Electric Ireland has 240,000 payment plans in place with customers in arrears – a threefold increase on 80,000 in 2010.

The Irish Independent reports that in total there are 400,000 people in arrears on their energy bills in Ireland.

A spokesperson for the ESB said that the meters were a positive development from the company’s point of view.

He added that at the end of the day the customers are still going to have to finish paying the money in arrears.

He said the meters “give them more control in terms of budgeting”.

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There are already 30,000 token meters installed at homes in Ireland, but these are older meters used in a different way, and customers have had issues with them.

Electricity and gas disconnections are down this year, according to a report by the Commission for Energy Regulation, which is responsible for overseeing the regulation of Ireland’s gas and electricity sectors.

The CER is responsible for allocating the meters to the various energy suppliers.

Earlier this year, the CER ran a smart metering trial for natural gas customers, where 2,000 gas smart meters were rolled out up until May.

It said that the meters lead to more information and lower bills; a reduction in 2.9 per cent of gas demand; and that a national roll-out of gas smart meters would yield a net benefit to customers and the country of up to €59 million over the next 20 years.

Read: One in four unable to cope with increased energy costs – survey>

Read: Electricity and gas disconnections down this year>

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