Most households in Ireland have received the first of three €200 energy credits but one group has been left out in the cold.
Residents who live in mobile homes in McDonagh’s Caravan Park in Bettystown, Co Meath, have been battling for months to get the energy rebate but have been told they are not eligible to receive it.
One woman, who does not wish to be named, told the Irish Mirror that she has lived in a mobile home in the park for five years but this winter is going to extremes to watch her electricity use after prices have soared.
“We don’t turn the lights on in the rooms at night. We use a candle on the coffee table and use the light from the TV. Who else is living like this?” she said.
“We are probably the people who need [the energy credit] more than anybody. We’re not supposed to have candles lighting in a mobile, they’re dangerous, but if it saves the electricity that’s what we’re doing. It’s like living back 100 years ago.”
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She said she was initially relieved when she heard about the energy credits announced in the Budget for “all Irish households” - until she found out she wouldn’t receive them as she lives in a mobile home without her own Meter Point Registration Number.
"This is so, so unfair,” she said. “I'm sick of hearing everybody is getting this [energy credit]. We're not. Everybody is not getting it.
“Why are we excluded? We are probably the worst hit because the place is so cold. You have to set the heating first thing in the morning otherwise you'd turn into a lump of ice getting to the bathroom.
“I’m so cross over it. I live on €232 a week [in disability payment] and I don't get [the energy credit].
"It's terrible, you're watching your electricity because it's so, so expensive. And the other thing is you're watching your gas, your gas is your heating. I buy a bottle of gas every 10 days and it's €140.”
Around 150 households are living as permanent residents in McDonagh’s Caravan Park. They own their own mobile home units but pay their electricity bills through the park operator who calculates the cost according to a private meter reading from their mobile home.
As the caravan park uses business rate electricity, the residents have no access to the government energy credit - which is for domestic electricity customers only.
Many residents in the park have attempted to voice their concerns about the energy credit to local politicians and to government support but so far no alternative solution is being offered to them.
Currently there are hundreds of residents in the park unable to access the much-needed rebate as they face rising costs of fuel and electricity coming into the colder months.
One resident Desmond Reynolds, 62, said the energy costs to heat his caravan have doubled this year while his fixed income has stayed the same.
"My electric bill is going to be in the region of €1,500 or €1,600 this year - it's doubled. And gas is separate to that,” he said.
“I live on my own. I'm on an invalidity pension, not through choice, I had to give up work due to ill health and now I find myself in this situation where I’m on a fixed income.”
He said he is prepared to fight for the energy credit as he believes it is his “entitlement” as an Irish household.
“I need to fight this best I can to try and get my entitlement and everybody else's entitlement that's not getting the money but is entitled to it. This is our household out at the end of the day.
“Eamon Ryan doesn't understand that or doesn't want to understand it. At the end of the day, he goes home to his warm house. He doesn't have to live in a mobile home that's not as comfortable as what he's living in.”
The €600 worth of energy credits was first announced in Budget 2023 and is being paid out to over 2.13 million households.
It will be paid in three instalments over the winter - the first €200 has already been paid at the beginning of November and two further instalments are due in January and March. There was another €200 energy credit paid between April and June this year - but the caravan park residents didn’t receive that one either.
Mobile home park operator, Mark McDonagh, said as he is a business electricity customer, he does not receive the energy rebate and therefore cannot pass on any energy credit on to the park residents.
"I am charged as a business,” he said. “The problem with this is there is one Meter Point Registration Number [MPRN] for the entire park so the electricity comes into the park and I distribute it, if you like, and I charge it out to residents on the kw/h at exactly the same rate that ESB charges me.
"The problem is, because residents don't have an MPRN number, they can't claim the €200 [energy credit].
Mr McDonagh said he has spoken to the ESB to see if there is any way to receive a government energy rebate for businesses but nothing has been confirmed.
"There is talk that businesses are getting some kind of a subsidy, which I would then in turn pass on to the residential people on the site pro rata,” he said.
“I have been on to them several times to find out when this is available and how much it will be and they haven't been able to tell me yet, they say they don't know themselves. If I were to get that, and I hope I do, I would pass it on. I don't know what more I can do?"
The Irish Mirror contacted the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, responsible for distributing the energy credits.
A spokesperson said: “The €600 electricity credit will be applied to domestic electricity accounts, including those with Pay-As-You-Go meters. The scheme uses the single identifier of the Meter Point Registration Numbers (MPRN) to ensure it can be administered rapidly without an application/approval process.
“This mechanism allowed payments to be made automatically to 2,138,939 domestic electricity accounts, over 99.36% of eligible accounts, under the first scheme which operated between April and June of this year.”
The Department spokesperson also pointed to existing social protection measures, which include provision for help with household bills, and several other cost-of-living measures introduced in Budget 2023.
These include; a €400 lump sum payment to Fuel Allowance recipients; a €200 lump sum payment for pensioners and people with a disability getting the Living Alone Increase; a €500 cost of living lump sum payment to all families getting Working Family Payment; the double payment of Child Benefit to support all families with children; a €500 cost of living payment for people receiving Carer's Support Grant to be paid in November and a €500 lump sum cost of living disability support grant to all people receiving a long term disability payment.
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