Surprise at low number of small firms tapping Covid-19 utility bill suspension aid

Utilities watchdog, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, or CRU, said it is surprised that so few small business owners have applied for an energy supply suspension scheme and believes the take-up could be much higher to save businesses a lot of money.
Surprise at low number of small firms tapping Covid-19 utility bill suspension aid
Aoife MacEvilly, chairperson of the Commission for Regulation of Utilities: "Certain businesses that have been required to suspend trading are focused on planning for reopening, but we believe that some of these customers could be missing out on reducing their energy costs during this period of inactivity."

Utilities watchdog, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, or CRU, said it is surprised that so few small business owners have applied for an energy supply suspension scheme and believes the take-up could be much higher to save businesses a lot of money.

The scheme, which has been in place since the start of May, works on the basis that the small firm will only get the rebate --which extends as long as the Covid-19 emergency measures are in place--from the date of the application, the regulator said.

However, it said only 8,000 electricity customers of a total of 199,000 SME electricity customers, and 2,000 gas customers of around 27,000 SME gas customers have so far applied.

“The CRU fully understands that business owners have a wide range of issues to deal with in these difficult times," said Aoife MacEvilly, chairperson of the CRU.

"Certain businesses that have been required to suspend trading are focused on planning for reopening, but we believe that some of these customers could be missing out on reducing their energy costs during this period of inactivity," she said.

"Both energy suppliers and network companies have been focused on implementing this new scheme and I would encourage SME customers to contact their suppliers to fully benefit from the supply suspension scheme,” she added.

The regulator said that the start of the reopening of the economy may mean that not all customers of energy utilities will need the scheme, however, "the CRU believes the overall take-up should be higher than at present levels".

It said firms should fill in an application to their energy supplier to tap the scheme.

"The CRU has requested that the main suppliers continue to engage with their customers to ensure as high a number of SME customers apply and possibly qualify for the supply suspension scheme," it said.

Gas Networks Ireland managing director Denis O’Sullivan, said that 650 pubs, restaurants, and catering businesses, as well as around 450 hotels have availed of the scheme to suspend their gas network charges.

"To try and alleviate some of the financial pressure, Gas Networks Ireland will forego network charges for a period of three months," he said.

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