Sinn Féin are demanding certainty that prepay electricity customers will not have their power cut off this winter following the introduction of Budget 2023 energy measures.
This comes as Government announce a range of energy supports aimed at easing the burden on consumers, with the opposition believing they are not inclusive of pay-as-you-go customers.
Energy credits worth €600 will rolled out for households across the country, and will be paid over the upcoming winter months. The credit will be applied to consumer electricity bills.
Secondly, the 9% VAT rate that has been applied to energy bills will be extended until February 2023. According to a report by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, this equates to a saving of approximately €64 for the average household over the period.
The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities has also confirmed the Public Service Obligation levy will be zero until October 2023, meaning an €89.10 annual credit will be applied to household energy bills.
A lump sum of €400 will also be given to recipients of the Fuel Allowance in November, and the means threshold for the Fuel Allowance will be expanded from the beginning of 2023 to allow more people to qualify for the payment.
According to Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald, these measures do not cater towards the 340,000 households that have prepay meters.
She said: “We know that 712 households were disconnected in the first half of this year and that was before the impact of the huge increases in bills this winter.
“Many households on prepaid meters are already rationing their electricity for fear of being cut off and that is a horrible situation for any family.”
Sinn Féin Enterprise Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly says self-disconnection will be an issue across the country.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week in Politics, she said“Self-disconnection is very nice way of saying you have no light or heat coming into your home, and you are going to bed cold.”
Responding to concerns, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he will continue to work with all concerned to “ensure people are not cut off.”
He said: “The CRU has increased the emergency credit of no less than €20 but it has also provided a reduction in the debt repayment level on pay-as-you-go meters from 25 per cent to a maximum of 10 per cent. Consequently, €20 would have €2 deducted to pay debt. That came into operation on the first day of this month.”
Sinn Féin’s Deputy Pearse Doherty questioned the effectiveness of the increased emergency credit during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday.
Speaking to the Tánaiste, he said: “The reality is that €20 is not going to stretch far. Yes, the companies cannot disconnect people at the weekend or at certain hours during the day but when Monday comes around, the lights will be off and people will have no electricity and no way of turning on the TV, the lights or many other basic functions.”