MORE than 80 households a day are having their electricity disconnected because of unpaid bills.
The news comes as consumers face further energy price hikes.
Energy providers revealed the full scale of debt among consumers amid calls for disconnection fees to be removed from bill payers laden with arrears.
The Oireachtas Committee on Energy heard that household electricity disconnections are running at 2,500 per month.
Commissioner for Energy Regulation Michael Tutty told TDs that disconnections acted as an incentive for people to clear their bills and not let them mount up.
Bord Gáis also revealed that 26,000 of its customers were carrying arrears of €500 or more.
Chief executive John Mullins said one option was for disconnection fees to be charged across the network on bills for all customers as opposed to just those struggling in-debt customers who have been cut off.
“Currently, these can add up to €200 to the customer’s debt, exacerbating the problem for both the customer and the supply company.”
People encountering difficulties paying household bills were just as likely to come from middle-class neighbourhoods as opposed to just less well-off areas, the committee was told.
Mr Mullins also warned there were now 40 times as many people having difficulty paying their bills – with arrears of over 120 days – as there were at the start of 2009.
ESB said up to 10,000 customers a month in arrears were arranging repayment schedules with the electricity supplier.
Executive director Brid Horan said ESB was working closely with the money and budgeting services as well as the St Vincent de Paul in assisting customers in trouble with their bills.
TDs were also told that ESB was writing off significant amounts of uncollected debt every year, which was likely to amount to some €20 million this year alone.
Bord Gáis has also made provision for €26m in bad debts.
“In the long run, debts written off by all energy suppliers will find their way into customers’ bills, as they do in all types of business,” added Ms Horan.
ESB said it had not increased its prices this year.
All energy customers face a 4.9% hike in their bill costs from tomorrow because of a levy to subsidise peat and renewable energy generators.
TDs heard that nearly 700,000 electricity consumers had switched supplier since last year.
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