A charity has called on energy companies to pass on discounts to struggling families, as it said it received 230,000 requests for help in 2022, with a significant number of people needing help with energy costs.
On Monday, Electric Ireland said it was cutting its electricity tariffs for small and medium enterprises by an average of 10% from next month, while gas prices for these businesses are set to fall by an average of 15%.
In a new report published today, St Vincent de Paul said that 40% of requests for help last year were related to high energy costs, which it said has pushed people already on low incomes into further energy poverty.
It said it heard from prepay customers using emergency credit who were shocked at how little is left on the meter just days after topping up and from people having to cut back on minimum essentials, and worrying about showers or using a cooker.
The vice-chair of St Vincent de Paul's Social Justice Committee said energy companies need to justify passing on cuts to businesses and not struggling households.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Nessan Vaughan said these companies were very quick to pass on increases to consumers when wholesale prices increased, and a corresponding reduction should be seen as soon as possible.
He said that more and more people are approaching SVP for the first time, including many who would have previously given donations to the charity to help others.
He said that people coming to SVP are very distressed and "constantly juggling" to make ends meet, while people in energy poverty are having to choose between food, topping up their meter or paying their rent.
"They're constantly juggling - so they pay the bills and they might come to us for food, or if they don't have enough food because they've topped up their meter or paid an electricity bill, they come to us for another support."
Behind every statistic is a human being and a family, he said, who are often tearful and emotional.
Mr Vaughan said recent government measures to help people are to be welcomed, but they are not targeted enough and social welfare increases should be linked to inflation.
One off payments are helpful but not enough, he added.
Minister of State Malcolm Noonan has said Electric Ireland should consider passing on cuts to households.
Speaking on the same programme, he said that Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has asked energy companies to consider domestic charges.
A senior research officer and energy economist with the ESRI said Electric Ireland's decision to reduce costs for SMEs seems to be the first step on the path to cutting prices for households.
However, Niall Farrell warned that it takes a while for changes in the wholesale market to work its way through to change in the retail market.
He said there is an incentive for Electric Ireland to pass on cuts to customers when it makes sense for them to do so.