The famous line from Jaws – “You’re going to need a bigger boat” – comes to mind as the Government contemplates what sort of a lifeboat to send to the aid of consumers and businesses at risk of being devoured by a biting energy crisis.
The recent €200 credit to electricity bills and reduction in Vat on gas bills will just not cut it this time.
The Budget will have to deliver substantially more as households, farmers and businesses face into a winter of savage and unsustainable energy price hikes.
Electric Ireland, the largest electricity supplier in the market, has just announced its fifth price rise since the start of last year.
The increases are mind-blowing in their scale.
Most Electric Ireland customers, especially families, will struggle with electricity prices going up from next month by 27pc.
The ESB-owned supplier’s decision will mean an average rise of €446 over a year.
The cumulative impact of the five increases from the State-owned company since January 2021 means annual electricity bills are doubling to €2,177 on average. That’s according to Bonkers.ie calculations.
Gas prices, meanwhile, are going up by 37.5pc this time, adding more than €500 to the average annual bill. Annual average costs for gas will now reach €1,900.
Only last month Electric Ireland increased its electricity and gas prices.
The company, which has 1.2 million electricity customers, said the international energy crisis continues to impact prices.
It said there have been unprecedented increases in wholesale gas, in excess of 700pc in the last 12 months, and more than 200pc since June 2022 alone.
Electric Ireland’s parent group, ESB, reported operating profits were up 10pc to €679m for last year. Its dividend to the State rose by more than half to €126m.
Last week SSE Airtricity said it is pushing up its electricity charges by more than 35pc, and its gas prices by 39pc, from the start of October.
At the moment, someone who is paying standard rates for electricity and gas and who switches could save more than €900 a year on average, which will help take the sting out of rising prices
The five price rises announced by SSE Airtricity since the start of last year means customers will pay an additional €1,100 a year for their electricity.
Airtricity gas customers have seen annual bills surge by €1,000 since the start of last year, according to Bonkers.ie.
PrepayPower, which provides electricity through pay-as-you-go meters, announced double-digit rises earlier this week.
Expect the rest of the suppliers to hit us with hikes in the coming days.
And home-heating oil costs for the 1.5 million households that heat their homes with oil have doubled to close to €1,400 for 1,000 litres.
Surging energy bills come at a time when around half a million families with tracker and variable mortgages are facing at least an additional €1,000 in their annual repayments.
Average annual food prices are up by close to €700, while diesel and petrol prices have also risen by €700 over a year.
Two points to note in all of this.
First, the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has no role in price-setting by energy firms – as is State policy.
Second, it still makes sense to switch provider, even with a succession of price rises.
Most of the suppliers still offer big discounts of up to 30pc or more for an entire year to new customers to entice them to switch.
At the moment, someone who is paying standard rates for electricity and gas and who switches could save more than €900 a year on average, which will help take the sting out of rising prices.
Savings of more than €300 a year can be made by those switching electricity only.
Even with a saving from switching, the surging costs will financially sink many families and businesses unless the Government comes up with a really substantial rescue package.
Over to you, Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath.