Higher electricity bills – for the frugal or for vacant properties?

Today, 27th February 2012, on the Irish Times front page, the headline “Over 100,000 face higher bills for not using enough electricity” appeared. Underneath we learned that those customers of Electricity Ireland who use an average of 2kWh or less a day will pay an extra €56.70 a year from now on.

But who are these 100,000 customers? Is Electricity Ireland targeting frugal users of electricity?

The Irish Times quoted Philip Campbell, who was alarmed to receive a letter telling him of this charge, and annoyed that his efforts to save electricity might see him penalised. His bills are now between €80 and €125 per billing period.

If Mr Campbell is on the standard tariff offered by Electricity Ireland, he is paying a standing charge of €120.17 per annum, and a charge per kWh (or unit) of 18.38c. So a bill for two months usage totalling €80 consists of €20.03 in standing charge and €59.97 in electricity costs. That suggests a usage of just over 326 units per billing period or about 5.3 units per day (or more if he is on a cheaper tariff). So Mr Campbell would need to reduce his reported usage by over 60% in a billing period before becoming liable for the charge.

A spokesman for the ESB is quoted in the Irish Times as saying, “Two units a day would be consumed by, for example, a small fridge-freezer on all day, by cooking on a small plate for 20 minutes, by having four 60W bulbs on for three hours, or by running a cycle on a washing machine.”  The average usage by a household is 14 units a day.

In addition some will be exempt from the charge; the Electricity Ireland website says that the charge will not apply to customers who receive a Free Electricity Allowance or customers on Household Budget Plan and Pay As You Go meters.

When contacted today about the charge a spokesman said, “The number would have come from ourselves, that’s roughly what we estimate is the number of premises with that level of consumption, that we estimate will be directly affected by it.”

“The idea that someone trying to cut back their daily usage will be hit by this charge is just not accurate”, the spokesman also said. “You will readily consume two units per day. We’ve identified this particular group [vacant premises], where we’re just not recovering our costs. We’ve directed specifically at that level of consumption.”


Electricity Ireland: Information on low-usage standing charge

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