Number of gas and electricity disconnections declined in 2013 compared to 2012
The trend looks set to continue in 2014 according to the latest CER domestic disconnections report
The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER)has revealed that disconnections for domestic gas and electricity were both down in 2013.
Last year saw 10,122 electricity disconnections and 5,895 gas disconnections, while the CER has now revealed a plan to monitor the market on a monthly basis to watch how suppliers operate.
Disconnections in the electricity market were down 31% while gas disconnections fell 16%, with the falls linked to a rise in settlements involving pay-as-you-go meters.
An 81% rise in those given electricity meters saw 26,591 customers receive one in 2013, while the number of people receiving gas meters rose by 45% to 18,519.
Despite the reduction in disconnections last year, the Society of St Vincent de Paul charity voiced concerns that the number is “still too high” and that a “troubling number” of households are relying on payment plans.
The charity added that the issue was with arrears and an inability to pay bills, rather than solely due to disconnections.
Of the total disconnections, around a third were suspected to be vacant properties as the properties were still believed to be vacant for some time afterwards.
Some 40% of electricity disconnections were at properties that were still empty after five weeks, while 36% of gas sites remained vacant six months on.
As part of its ongoing commitment to reduce the number of household disconnections, The CER imposed a freeze on disconnections between January and 20th February 2014. This meant that there were no disconnections of domestic customers for reasons of non-payment of account in January and for most of February this year.
The latest disconnections report from The CER looked at several keys areas regarding the numbers of disconnections per supplier.
The number of disconnections per 10,000 people is the best reflection on the market, and the main electricity suppliers all have similar rates of disconnections.
SSE Airtricity has the lowest number of disconnections at 10.54 per 10,000, while Bord Gáis Energy and Electric Ireland had rates of 13.69 and 15.57 respectively.
According to The CER, Bord Gáis Energy suggested the figure was as a result of mild weather which has led to a lack of arrears accumulating, while the other two suppliers said it resulted from the availability and acceptance of PAYG meters.
Electric Ireland also revealed that 200,000 payment plans for customers in arrears had now been accepted.
SSE Airtricity saw the highest number of gas disconnections per 10,000 people in 2013, with a total of 22.66 customers disconnecting from the company.
Bord Gáis Energy had a rate of 15.29, while Flogas Natural Gas had a rate of 13.85 – both significantly higher than the rate for Electric Ireland that was a lowly 3.18 disconnections per 10,000.
SSE had the highest disconnection rate in Q4 2013, while seasonal effects also occurred, following a similar trend to that seen in past years as well.
Both SSE Airtricity and Electric Ireland put the decline in gas connections down to their entry point into the market.
Meanwhile, Bord Gáis Energy said their rate of decline in disconnections was due to a decline in customer numbers.