A moratorium on gas and electricity disconnections for domestic customers, brought in to stop people being cut off during the pandemic, will be lifted from June 1.
The moratorium was put in place in March of last year to provide customers not making payments on their account with a temporary respite from fear of disconnection during lockdown.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) said it is notifying the public of the lifting today to provide customers and suppliers with "an increased window to fully engage and put in place appropriate debt payment plans".
It said it chose June 1 for the lifting of the moratorium because energy consumption is typically lower in the summer months, providing "further scope for customers to engage with their suppliers and help to bring any arrears to manageable levels".
CRU chairperson Aoife MacEvilly said: "As the Covid restrictions ease and society and the economy opens up again, the time has come to revert to the standard high levels of protection that exist for customers.
According to the CRU, an upward trend in debt levels has emerged since the moratorium was implemented 42 weeks ago, with an increased proportion of customers now remaining in debt with their energy suppliers for longer.
This, the CRU says, only stores up the problem for customers to a later date.
"It is clear that long-term debt may be a challenge for both customers and suppliers," a CRU spokesperson said.
The CRU is urging customers experiencing difficulty paying their bills to engage with their supplier as soon as possible.
Labour spokesperson on Social Protection and Cork East TD Seán Sherlock said the ending of the moratorium is "short-sighted."
"The mortarium on disconnections was an important element in ensuring people were able to stay home and stay safe," he said.
"We are not out of the woods yet on this pandemic and this week we see 376,600 are in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. The moratorium protects those people and their families and more beyond."
Under the supplier-led voluntary Energy Engage Code, gas and electricity suppliers will not disconnect a customer who is engaging with them.
The code also states that suppliers must also provide every opportunity to customers to help them avoid disconnection.
Suppliers also have to identify customers at risk of disconnection and encourage them to get in contact. They are also obliged to offer a range of payment options, such as a debt-repayment plan for a customer in arrears.
"We will continue to monitor the market to ensure that customers are given the full protections as set out in the supplier handbook," Ms MacEvilly said.
"Under these, all customers must be offered a reasonable and affordable debt recovery option which takes account of the individuals’ circumstances.
"This could be a payment plan or a pre-payment meter," she said.
Ms MacEvilly also recommended that customers submit regular meter readings to their energy supplier.
"Customers that engage and take one of these options will not be disconnected," she said.