Energy bills set to rise this autumn

Wednesday 05 December 2012 11.16
Gas could go up by €20 a month
Gas could go up by €20 a month

It’s August and the kids are still on holiday with no homework to do. But, as an adult your household homework never ends – you’ve got to plan for September when the bills for books, new clothes, trainers etc flood in.

But it’s also a time to look at saving money.

Two areas worth looking at now are your energy bills as well as private health insurance – see separate article here.

Prices are set to rise for gas bills in the autumn and if you have a health insurance policy you should know that there have been changes in the terms and conditions with regard to cancellation, meaning you should take another look at your switching strategy.

It is complex and there are many variables. If you don’t have time to read this right now, and just want a quick look to compare prices check www.bonkers.ie. – it has been approved by the regulators.

Energy bills may rise by €20 a month

Why should I think about switching again now? Put simply; because there is no benefit in waiting.

Here’s the context: Bord Gais has applied to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) for an increase in gas prices of 7.54%. A decision will be made at the end of this month and the price increase will take effect from October 1.

If the regulator approves this increase, customers can expect to pay between €54 and €67 more per year for their gas depending on how the increase is applied.

Remember that this time last year, Bord Gais was allowed a 22% gas price increase so that average annual bills jumped from €727 to €890. If the latest increase goes ahead you’re looking at paying in the region of €950 per year for household gas. This means that in the space of a year you’d be looking at paying almost €20 per month more for your domestic gas.

Also, based on what happened last year we can expect the other gas suppliers (Flogas, Airtricity, Electric Ireland), to follow suit. That is because only Bord Gais has a regulated gas price and the other suppliers benchmark their prices against that, offering percentage discounts against the Bord Gais ‘standard rate’.

So, remember because the tariffs keep changing, you must keep your eye on what you’re paying, and whether you can switch to get a better deal.

Phone for discounts now to counter the October rise

Knowing that gas prices will be going up from October, see if you can find a better deal now. Whatever price you get will still increase from October (you can’t ‘lock-in’ at a particular price, for example 15% off the standard rate will then be 15% off a higher rate come October), but you’ll still get two months at a lower price. With gas, Flogas have more or less remained the cheapest, with tariffs up to 15% less that the regulated rate.

Electricity tariffs are less consistent – so watch for deals

When it comes to electricity, prices or price changes are not regulated by CER. This means that the standard tariffs from the operators can all vary.

These change all the time too. For example on July 9 Airtricity introduced some new tariffs and at the beginning of August Electric Ireland withdrew their fixed price tariff deal (the only fixed price deal on the market). This was a 12-month contract where the price you paid was fixed and would not change even if general prices increased. Remember, you can buy your electricity from Bord Gais and prepaypower.ie as an alternative to Electric Ireland and Airtricity.

Electricity – you can switch deals without changing provider

Bear in mind that you have to keep switching to ensure you are always on the best deal; that could mean switching to another deal within your current provider, or switching provider.

For example, if you are on a 12-month or even a two year contract, when that period ends you will automatically be put on a standard i.e. higher tariff, so you’ll need to review your options again.

Make that date a red-letter day on your calendar. And remember to watch out for penalties if you switch mid-contract.

What help is there when it comes to choosing the best price?

In CER’s residential gas customer survey published a few weeks ago, they found that 64% had never switched and a quarter had either a small degree or no understanding of gas offers. However, while people clearly found it difficult to compare, a vast majority (91%) of both gas and electricity customers found the switchover process easy.

And comparing is complicated; it’s not just the tariffs you have to keep an eye on, but also the standing charge which can vary from deal to deal, i.e. there might be a higher standing charge with a lower tariff and a lower standing charge with a higher tariff.

Remember your bill also includes a carbon tax

Also gas customers should bear in mind that the carbon tax (which went up in May) is based on consumption so you pay more the more units you use. Also, the best deals are available for those who are happy to get e-bills and pay by direct debit and you can also choose a combined electricity and gas deal if that works for you.

Given this complexity and the many variables, late last year CER decided they would begin an accreditation process for online comparison sites of energy products. To date only one site has received that accreditation – www.bonkers.ie. On that site you can input your usage details and find the best deal for you.