The Government’s scheme to give people €100 off their electricity bills may yet be some weeks before coming into effect, with the exact mechanism of how the payment will be applied yet to be finalised.
The scheme, called the electricity costs emergency benefit scheme, requires the passage of primary legislation through the Oireachtas with Cabinet approval for a bill to be sought later this month, the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications has said.
It’s estimated that around 2.1 million domestic electricity account holders will benefit from the once-off scheme.
All electricity customers, including pay-as-you-go customers, will receive a once-off €100 off their energy bill which will be automatically applied to their accounts.
Pay-as-you-go customers will also receive the €100 credit under the scheme, and the Government has said it hopes to have it operational by the end of March this year.
A Department of Environment spokesperson said: “The exact mechanism of how the payment will be applied is currently being finalised and will be announced in this quarter (Q1 of this year).
“A draft of the primary legislation required is currently being finalised with the Office of the Attorney General.
“Cabinet approval for the draft Bill will be sought later this month, with a view to its introduction to the Oireachtas as soon as possible to allow for the establishment of the scheme in this quarter.”
It said suppliers will place further information on their websites with the exact dates the credit will show on their customers’ electricity bills.
In matters where the electricity bill is included as part of someone’s rent, the department said that whether the account holder passes on any portion of this credit is a matter between the account holder and the tenant.
The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities will provide oversight to the scheme, which is to be operated by ESB Networks who will make the payments to energy suppliers, who will in turn credit all their domestic electricity account holders.
The move from Government came amid sustained pressure to take action to help households amid record high energy costs and numerous price hikes from suppliers throughout 2021.
Bonkers.ie’s head of communications Daragh Cassidy said that there had been 35 price hike announcements across 2021, with some suppliers raising prices five times.
Recent CSO figures have pointed to an over 20% price inflation in the cost of electricity over the space of a year.
Tricia Keilthy, the head of social justice at St Vincent De Paul, said that the measure needs to be brought in “as soon as possible”.
“Obviously, any bit of support is to be welcomed,” she said. “It will make a difference to households that are struggling, but it’s not going to be enough for some.”
She said that other measures in Budget 2022 would go some way to addressing this, but called for other measures to support customers who are in debt and may be in danger of having their supply cut off.
“Hearing from our regions, it’s been of the busiest Christmasses we’ve had for a long time,” she said. “We noted that between September and December, calls for help with utilities were up 24%.”
She urged those in difficulty in keeping up with their energy costs to engage with their supplier on the issue as soon as possible.