The Commissioner for Energy Regulation has disclosed figures to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee that show a rise in the number of gas service disconnections in 2012.

The number of gas disconnections increased from 840 in the final three months of 2011 to 1,717 in the first three months of 2012.

There was a further increase between April and June of last year, to 2,373.

By comparison, there were 2,960 electricity disconnections in the same period.

This is down from a peak of 5,000 recorded in the third quarter of 2011.

Energy regulator Dermot Nolan described the rising rate of gas disconnections as worrying.

He said more research was required and may relate to the number of properties becoming vacant in the country.

He said that, following informal conversations with St Vincent de Paul and MABS, those struggling with bills are not older people, but were families with children.

Fine Gael TD Kieran O'Donnell said the St Vincent de Paul had paid out €9m in funding for clients' energy bills, including reconnection charges.

Mr Nolan said that Airtricity had the highest disconnection rate on electricity supply about a year-and-a-half ago.

However, he said the rate has since reduced and they are no longer an outlier in relation to the other two providers, Electricity Ireland and Bord Gáis.

He said there was also still a reluctance on the part of customer to have pay-as-you-go meters installed in their homes.

Mr Nolan said an announcement will be made in the near future in relation to price changes due on 1 April, however he said that over the last six months there had not been changes in wholesale prices.

He said he did not expect any significant change.