Large energy bills are unavoidable for households this winter and Government will have to address this with financial supports and advice, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said.

Mr Ryan said everything would be done to avoid blackouts but there are no absolute guarantees.

"We can't be absolutely certain. Equipment breaks but we managed it last winter," he said as he arrived at Cabinet this morning.

Government believes it will be a "dramatic and difficult" period in energy, particularly because of the price rises.

It comes as energy provider PrepayPower told its pay-as-you-go electricity and gas customers of the latest price hikes. From 1 October, its electricity customers will see a 19% rise and gas customers face a 29% hike.

In recent days, SSE Airtricity announced planned price increases of up to 39%, which is among the largest price hikes seen in the energy sector in the country.

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Mr Ryan also confirmed that Government will look at storing back-up gas supplies to deal with the energy shortage.

A range of options to achieve this would be presented to Government later this week and this would be followed with a public consultation.

But Liquified Natural Gas storage has proved controversial, with the Green Party trenchant in its opposition to such as plant in north Kerry.

LNG was one of the major sticking points when the Programme for Government was negotiated over two years ago, but the energy crisis means it is back on the agenda and this time it could be a State-run facility.

However, one group of Independent TDs today branded the Government response too slow on storing back-up gas supplies and on safeguarding the electricity supply generally.

Independent TD Denis Naughten said: "I think it's too little too late. What we need to do is prioritise keeping the lights on in this country and making electricity affordable for families and businesses throughout this country."

Cabinet met today as inflation across the euro area was estimated to have risen to a new historic high of 9.1% in August, according to the EU's statistical agency Eurostat.

Ireland's estimated annual inflation rate is forecast to have declined slightly to 8.9%.

Next week, the ECB's governing council meets to decide on what is expected to be another increase in interest rates across the euro area.

Today's estimate of a fresh high of 9.1% inflation in August will add to speculation that rates could go up by another half a percent or even higher.

Energy remains the main contributor to inflation, rising at an annual rate of 38.3%, which was slightly lower than in July.

This was mirrored in Ireland. The CSO said today energy prices here fell in August by 2.8% compared to July.

Wholesale oil prices fell in late July which led to a drop in prices at the pump. But they rose again in recent weeks and remain volatile.

Also, gas prices have climbed to record highs in the past ten days on concerns about supplies this winter.

When energy and food prices are stripped out, so-called core inflation is estimated to have continued to rise across the euro area, which means price rises are becoming more widespread.

As the Eurostat data outlined the big picture, the real impact of the increased cost of living was highlighted in the picture painted by St Vincent de Paul.

With almost a million children returning to primary and secondary classrooms this week, the charity said that requests for help from families struggling ahead of the new term climbed by a fifth.

It said it is being contacted by 30 people an hour looking for support - a substantial rise on the volume of calls it received at this time last year.

One caller told the charity: "The back-to-school allowance didn't even cover the cost of his books this year. I still have copies, shoes, school bags and uniforms left to buy and that's without doing the shopping and covering all of our bills."

As attention turns to the winter ahead, the cost of living is very much the focus for people and politicians ahead of Budget 2023 being announced.

Reporting Mícheál Lehane and Robert Shortt