The Taoiseach fears that fuel supply issues that have brought Britain to a standstill could be replicated in Ireland.
When asked if he was worried that the chaos in Britain involving long traffic jams and confrontations at filling stations would have a knock-on effect here, Micheál Martin said: ‘I am indeed.’
Speaking in New York on Friday, he said ‘the fallout has yet to come in terms of Brexit’, and while Ireland was insulated from the acute problems in Britain due to trade links with Europe, Mr Martin admitted that the pandemic had ‘masked a lot of the issues around Brexit’.
Britain is experiencing shortages at the fuel forecourts, on supermarket shelves, and in pubs and restaurants, due to a lack of truck drivers. Thousands of EU drivers have returned to Europe because of Brexit, and pay and conditions.
The potential fuel shortage here is coupled with an ongoing energy crisis with its cost reaching an ‘all-time high’. Bord Gáis’s hundreds of thousands of customers are the latest to be facing an energy price rise.
The latest increase will add almost €100 a year to the average household’s annual gas bill and €123 to the average annual electricity bill.
When recent price hikes are taken into account, Bord Gáis customers will be paying around €340 a year more on average for their electricity and €200 extra for their gas.
The latest figures show there has been a six-fold increase in gas prices in the past year and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan warned this week that the cost of gas has ‘gone through the roof’.
There have been around 30 price hike announcements from Irish energy suppliers since the start of the year and some suppliers have raised prices four times.
Bord Gáis Energy said it is raising its prices ‘due to the all-time high cost of energy’. Dave Kirwan, managing director of Bord Gáis Energy, said that the company is ‘experiencing an extremely uncertain energy market right now and we know our customers are concerned about that’.
‘We regret that we have to pass through a price increase at this time, but we have taken steps to protect our customers against further movement during the colder winter months ahead. Today we confirmed a unique guarantee to hold these prices until Spring 2022,’ he said.
The price increases will affect over 350,000 Bord Gáis electricity customers and over 300,000 gas customers.
The price comparison website, Bonkers.ie, said that the Bord Gáis price increase ‘had been expected given the raft of price increases that have been announced so far this year on the back of skyrocketing wholesale energy costs.’
Daragh Cassidy, Bonkers.ie head of communications, said the Bord Gáis announcement was ‘almost inevitable’. He said Ireland is being hit by huge energy price hikes because ‘a lot of our electricity is still generated from burning coal and gas in particular. The price of these fossil fuels collapsed at the height of the pandemic but has increased significantly in recent months as the world economy opens back up. For example the price of gas has shot up by over 200% in recent weeks.’
To make things worse, two large power plants have been out of action for maintenance reasons over the past year or so: the Whitegate plant in Cork and the Huntstown plant in Dublin. Together these usually supply around 15% or more of our electricity.
All the factors have created the ‘perfect storm’ for price increases,’ Mr Cassidy said.
Age Action called on the Government yesterday to increase the number of elderly people on the Fuel Allowance Scheme and to increase the number of weeks it covers from 28 to 32 to protect older people through the winter.
It warned that there is ‘a growing divide between households in terms of the energy efficiency of their homes’ and that many older people ‘cannot afford expensive home retrofitting’.
It said that there are approximately 713,000 people drawing the retirement pension, of which just 131,432 receive the fuel allowance.
The latest independent figures show that gas prices have rocketed almost six-fold over the past year and, as gas is used to generate about 40% of Ireland’s electricity, that means higher power bills too.
The head of the Commission for Regulation of Utilities Aoife McEvilly, who monitors energy suppliers, gave a stark warning to homeowners saying: ‘I think we’re in for a difficult winter.’
The ongoing energy price crunch comes as motorists in Britain started panic-buying fuel yesterday, bringing many places to a standstill.
Pleas from the British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps for drivers to ‘carry on as normal’ were ignored, leading to long jams and angry scenes at filling stations.
The British government was poised last night to cave in to demands to change visa rules to allow in 5,000 foreign lorry drivers and stop the economy grinding to a halt.
Driver shortages are hitting every part of the economy, creating gaps on supermarket shelves, leaving pubs and restaurants short of key produce and jeopardising the supply of key chemicals to water firms.
Britain is said to be short of more than 90,000 drivers, which is due to thousands of EU drivers going home because of Brexit. Other factors include the long-standing issue of poor recruitment linked to poor pay and conditions, as well as a result of the coronavirus, which cancelled the training and the testing of tens of thousands of workers.
The problems were triggered after BP and Esso admitted on Thursday that a lack of tanker drivers was hitting deliveries. The news led to a race to the petrol pumps with the result that hundreds ran out of some fuel types and dozens closed altogether.Internet Explorer Channel Network