Sinn Féin spokesperson for the Environment and Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, says Government inaction on rip-off energy costs has resulted in increasing numbers of gas and electricity customers in arrears, and a sharp spike in the number of disconnections since the ban was lifted at the end of March.
Commenting on new figures provided by the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU), which indicate that an additional 23,453 domestic electricity and 1,137 domestic gas customers fell into arrears between April and May this year, the Meath East TD said;
“The figures are shocking. They are the inevitable consequence of a government that continues to allow energy companies to run rough-shod over consumers.
“Between February and May there has been an increase of over 10% in the number of households in arrears (364,131 to 405,997). This means that there are now over 400,000 households in arrears. That is absolutely unacceptable.
“These are obviously staggering figures, but these are not just figures, there are real people behind them. These are the ordinary workers and families who are facing the deeply distressing situation of being unable to afford to live in rip-off Ireland. And due to the actions of this government, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
“The figures for domestic electricity arrears are particularly alarming. From February this year to the end of May, the number of households in arrears shot up by almost 30,000 to a staggering 240,791. It is easy to forget the magnitude of this number but that is nearly a quarter of a million households.
“In terms of gas customers, there are now 165,206 households in arrears. This represents an increase of nearly 25,000 from this time last year and shockingly, an 81% increase from 2019 when 91,121 households were in domestic gas arrears.
“The reality is that energy costs have more than doubled in the last 2 years in Ireland. For example, a bill of €600 would have been unusual previously whereas now it’s become a common occurrence. This is leading to insurmountable, unsustainable levels of debt for people that they simply cannot overcome. It is patently clear that the Government has not done enough to protect workers and families from rip-off energy costs here.
“It is most regrettable, but not surprising, then, that the number of households being disconnected has sky-rocketed since the moratorium was lifted at the end of March. 153 domestic electricity and 215 domestic gas customers were disconnected in the 2 months to the end of May.
“To make matters worse, this situation is expected to further deteriorate in the months ahead as the pressures of increasing levels of debt accumulate.
“The Government must get to grips with this deteriorating situation urgently. They must heed Sinn Féin calls to hold energy companies to account and to address Ireland’s rip-off energy bills. Without urgent and appropriate intervention, ordinary Irish workers and families continue to suffer.”
Note to Editor: Correspondence from CRU is available to view here