Number of electricity disconnections up on last year, regulator says

Regulation commission expands period of time in which more vulnerable customers cannot be disconnected

The rate at which people are being disconnected by energy providers is broadly in line with last year when just over 1,300 domestic and business consumers were cut off, according to data from the regulator.

However, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) said this year was seeing a slightly higher level of electricity disconnections.

Last week, the commission moved to expand the period of time in which more vulnerable customers could not be disconnected – the moratorium will now run from the beginning of October to the end of March for those registered as more likely to experience difficulties with bill payment.

For all customers, the month-long Christmas moratorium has been extended to run between the beginning of December to the end of February.


These moves, alongside 13 other new rules due to come into force in the coming months, are a reflection of mounting anxiety among energy users ahead of the autumn and winter months.

In an era of surging wholesale prices being passed on to customers, energy providers have appealed to anyone in difficulty to make contact and avail of numerous protections and assistance schemes now in place. Many work with organisations such as the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) and the State-run Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) to help those in need to apply for assistance schemes such as hardship funds.

Ireland has more than 2.1 million domestic electricity customers, 691,000 domestic gas customers, and 373,000 pay-as-you-go energy customers.

“The current numbers for disconnections in 2022 are currently tracking generally in line with [the 2021] figure, if slightly higher in electricity,” the CRU said, although acknowledging there are four months of high energy bills yet to go.

Other measures introduced by the regulator include mandatory information on flexible repayment plans; a greater emphasis on required communication with customers; and changes to the terms of use for those on prepay meters.

Ahead of the winter, the CRU said it had been engaging with its Customer Stakeholder Group, which includes several charities, as well as energy suppliers and Department of Environment officials regarding additional measures it intends to take to strengthen protections.

It is due to increase its communication campaigns to support customers in making the switch to the best tariff for their needs, to be aware of their rights and to register as a vulnerable customer.

As companies prepare to send out higher bills from next month – many having announced price hikes – they have outlined various mitigation and other measures designed to ease concerns.

Last week, Bord Gáis Energy announced its intention to up its gas prices by 39 per cent and electricity prices by 34 per cent from early October. However, the provider has pointed out that 10 per cent of its operating profits are now pledged to an energy support fund to help customers during the energy crisis.

In a statement, the company said it was working with a number of organisations to help customers access the fund, with €1.25 million already given earlier this year to support struggling customers. The provider, which has well over half a million domestic energy customers, said it also had additional customer service resources in place as well as tailored, flexible payment options among other measures.

“There is no precedent for the current energy crisis, and consumers and businesses across the globe are grappling with very challenging increases in the cost of living,” said managing director Dave Kirwan.

SSE Airtricity, having ushered in similar price increases, recently announced the expansion of its own customer support fund with €25 million available to aid financially vulnerable customers, the largest support fund of any supplier in the State, it said.

The company’s “price promise” will freeze about 60,000 customer costs at the same level as in June, stretching out to the end of next March. “SSE Airtricity has also committed to providing home energy efficiency upgrades for up to 600 vulnerable households across the island of Ireland at no cost,” it said.

Electric Ireland, which raised its standard household electricity and gas prices by 26.7 per cent and 37.5 per cent respectively, said it engaged with customers in difficulty in line with the voluntary Industry Energy Engage Code.

It had experienced a marked decrease in disconnections over the past two years due to ongoing supports like this, it said, and runs a €3 million hardship fund.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times