Stronger euro offsetting energy price increasesMonday 11 February 2013 17.07
Irish consumers are being insulated from bearing the full brunt of recent rises in fuel prices by a strong euro.
That is according to the latest Bord Gáis Energy index, which monitors the impact on Irish consumers of oil, gas, coal and electricity prices on a monthly basis.
The gains made since the start of the year by the euro against the dollar - the currency in which oil and natural gas are largely traded - have reduced fuel inflation from 3% in January to 1%
Bord Gáis said its energy index stood at 150 in January, up 4% on the same time last year.
The natural gas element of the index fell by 5% as Irish buyers of wholesale UK gas benefited form a weaker sterling.
Strong piped gas flows from Europe helped the UK meet its higher winter season demand, along with withdrawals from UK storage facilities.
However, Bord Gáis said these withdrawals have the potential to push wholesale gas prices higher as future demand to replenish empty stocks could increase.
By the end of the month, storage levels were about 55% full compared to about 75% last year.
The coal element of the index fell by 7% as the European coal market reacted to over-supply and depressed demand.
Bord Gáis noted that prices have fallen by over 30% since the highs seen in January 2011. It said this fall has coincided with the shale gas revolution in the US, which has seen an ''extraordinary'' increase in the production of gas.
The electricity element of the index fell by 1% last month. Bord Gáis said that with falling wholesale gas and coal prices in euro terms, downward pressure was seen in the average monthly wholesale price of Irish electricity last month, despite rising demand due to the cold weather.
Bord Gáis said that in euro terms, the Brent crude oil price rose last month by 1% as the strengthening euro suppressed the majority of the 4% US dollar price increase.
The 4% price rise was due to the geopolitical situation in the Middle East and North Africa and concerns about Iran's nuclear programme.
John Heffernan, power trader at Bord Gáis, said that a growing optimism about the world economy is adding an additional stimulus to oil prices as the market positively reassesses the prospects for global demand this year.
''It is likely that oil prices will be high in 2013, but positive price relief could potentially come in the form of rising non-OPEC oil production, particularly in the US where the IE predicts production will rise by the largest amount on record in 2013 due to the unconventional oil revolution,'' he added.