Nearly 14,000 electricity account holders in Ireland did not receive the first installment of €200 credits issued by the government, resulting in over €2.4 million being returned to the Exchequer. The payment was intended for all households, but certain groups, including 1,000 Traveller households in specific Local Authority accommodations, were unable to access it. A new report from the Department of the Environment highlights the impact of the scheme and states that over 99% of eligible accounts received the credit, which was introduced to alleviate the burden of soaring energy costs for households.
The report reveals that the first payment in March 2022 coincided with a significant decrease of almost 95,000 customers in arrears. With the upcoming Budget just 10 days away, it is widely anticipated that further assistance will be provided to households across the country to address their energy bills. Last year, domestic electricity customers received an emergency payment of €176.22, excluding VAT, in April, May, and June. The government introduced three additional installments of the payment due to the continuous rise in energy prices.
While energy prices were already increasing before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the crisis prompted unprecedented energy price rises, according to the Department of the Environment. The government estimated that €379.3 million would be required from Exchequer funding for the scheme. The report further reveals that 13,752 eligible domestic electricity accounts did not have the credit applied due to the relevant supplier’s inability to identify an account holder for the specific Meter Point Registration Number (MPRN). Suppliers were instructed to make every effort to identify the account holder, but this led to certain groups being unable to access the payment. Approximately 1,000 Traveller households in specific Local Authority accommodations were identified as one such group. These households were registered to the Local Authority, and the MPRN supplied multiple households. The government subsequently approved the introduction of complementary measures to ensure that these households received the backdated payments owed under the original scheme.
The Department of the Environment stated that reports from the energy regulator indicated that the credit helped protect customers from the worst impacts of the sharp increases in tariffs. It also prevented those with debts of less than €200 from further entrenchment. However, charities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have called on the government to discontinue these universal payments in the upcoming Budget and instead provide more targeted support to families struggling with rising costs.