You have to have a long memory to remember an energy crisis like the one we experienced in 2022.
The price of gas and electricity reached a record high. There were concerns about a shortage of gas as well as electricity blackouts, and three energy suppliers — namely Bright, Glowpower and Panda Power — exited the Irish market.
The average gas and electricity bill is now at over €4,000 a year, according to Daragh Cassidy of price comparison site Bonkers.ie.
This is more than double what we were on average paying for energy in the home around 18 months ago. And it could creep even higher later in the new year, Mr Cassidy said.
However, there is a small bit of good news.
The Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy, which was almost €60 a year, was reduced to zero from October 1 last. The PSO levy is charged to all bills and supports the generation of electricity from sustainable and renewable local sources of energy, such as wind and solar power.
The rate is calculated annually by the regulator and energy suppliers are required to collect this levy from customers through bills.
In 2022, value added tax (Vat) on energy bills was temporarily reduced to 9pc.
And the Government introduced an electricity credit of €200 for every household back in March and in the 2023 Budget announced a further €600 credit to be paid in three instalments over the winter.
How to switch
Over the past few months the discounts on offer to energy supply switchers have reduced.
Discounts of up to 40pc used to be common, but the average discount now is around 10pc, Mr Cassidy said.
“Although this is unfortunate, it still pays to switch,” Mr Cassidy said. With energy prices now so high, a 10pc discount still works out at a saving of up to €400 a year on average for those using electricity and gas.
This is not far below the average annual savings that were available before the energy crisis kicked off.
“Switching energy suppliers is quick and easy and everything can be done online in the space of a few minutes,” said Mr Cassidy.
“You don’t even need to contact your existing provider to let them know you’re leaving.”
But consumers need to be aware that the best deals are usually reserved for people who pay by direct debit and are happy to sign up to online billing.
“Also, if you have gas, be aware that it’s not always cheaper to get your gas and electricity from the same supplier. Although perhaps less convenient, it can often be cheaper to get your gas and electricity from separate suppliers.”
What happens next?
A switch normally takes two to three weeks to fully process.
During this time your old supplier will send you out a closing bill and shortly after your new supplier will contact you by post or email to welcome you and provide you with important information such as your account details and how to sign up for its online services.
If your account is in credit due to the €600 electricity credit, any money due from your closing bill will be deducted from this.
If your account is still in credit, then your supplier should refund you the money directly. But with some suppliers, you may have to contact them yourself and arrange it, Mr Cassidy said.
Is switching open to everyone?
Most energy contracts last 12 months and usually anyone can switch outside of this timeframe.
If you switch while still in contract, however, you may be charged an early exit fee which usually ranges from €50 for a single fuel contract to €100 for dual fuel deals.
You should also ensure any arrears on your account have been cleared as this could hinder your ability to move supplier.
Customer service issues
Record numbers of people have been switching supplier in recent months. Mr Cassidy said this is great news, but some energy suppliers have struggled with customer service issues. There are long wait times to get through to call centres.
However, people should still persevere with switching and it’s recommended you go online to do it. This is the one year when you do not want to be paying anymore than you need to for your gas and electricity.
How else can people save?
As well as switching, Mr Cassidy encourages people to look at ways they can reduce their energy usage around the home.
He advises that replacing all your bulbs with LED bulbs is a good start. Replacing just one bulb will save you around €6 a year in electricity, and it will last far longer than a halogen bulb too.
Meanwhile, turning down the thermostat by just one degree could save you around €150 a year.
When buying new appliances like a dishwasher, fridge, washing machine, or hoover etc, look for the appliances that are as energy-efficient as possible.
They might cost a bit more upfront but will more than pay for themselves over the medium-term. And when making a cup of tea or coffee, make sure you don’t overfill the kettle. There’s no point wasting money on heating water you don’t need.
Unplugging appliances when not in use is also recommended. As is getting a good lagging jacket for your hot water tank.
If you have a NightSaver meter or a smart meter which you have activated, consider moving your usage to times when your electricity is less expensive.
There are of course fire safety risks to consider with running appliances including washing machines, dishwashers and dryers late at night.
Be mindful that unless you have a NightSaver meter or a smart meter which you have activated, there is no saving to be made by running your appliances outside of peak hours as you’re charged the same price for your electricity 24/7.
You may help reduce demand pressure on the national grid — but there will be no cost savings to you personally, Mr Cassidy said.
Four things you need to change your energy supplier
1. Your MPRN or GPRN
You will need to provide your meter point reference number (MPRN) if switching electricity supplier and your gas point reference number (GPRN) for gas. Your MPRN is a unique 11-digit number which indicates the exact location of your property’s connection to Ireland’s electricity network. Your MPRN will be printed on your electricity bill. Your GPRN is a unique seven-digit code assigned to every gas point on Ireland’s natural gas network. You’ll find your GPRN printed on your gas bill, usually at the top, although it can vary depending on your supplier.
It’s important to remember that both your GPRN and MPRN are attached to the location of your home and not to your supplier or you personally. So even if you switch energy supplier, your number won’t change.
2. A recent meter reading
You will also need to provide an up-to-date meter reading.
3. An estimate of how much energy you use
When switching energy supplier, you’ll also need to provide a good estimate of how much energy you use each year either in kWh or in euro. This will ensure that your savings estimates are accurate.
4. Some personal details
To complete your energy switch you’ll also need to give some personal details and banking details. You can also get a better estimate of your expected savings if you know the name of the current plan or the unit rate that you’re on, so it’s useful to have this to hand when switching as well. You can find all this on a recent bill or by contacting your supplier.
*All prices are correct at the time of publication