Galway businessman Pat McDonagh has said up to 10% of small businesses could fail due to the current energy crisis.
The founder and owner of Supermacs told RTÉ’s This Week that massive increases in electricity bills would make many businesses unsustainable within a short period of time. He said certain businesses should receive government support.
Mr McDonagh also called on the Government to reopen the recently decommissioned Derrybrien wind farm in Co Galway as well as the peat-fired power plants at Shannonbridge and Lanesborough, Co Longford.
“The Taoiseach has said we are in a war time situation,” he said adding that re-opening these plants would boost energy supply in the short term.
Businesses across the country are facing electricity bills that are double or in some cases three times what they were last year.
“About two months ago, when we were still on a contract we were paying 23 cent a unit. Hats actually gone up to 64” said Andy Cavan, owner of Bunowen Bakery in Ballinasloe which supplies bread and cakes to shops across to Connaught and into Leinster.
Bunowen Bakery has been on a growth path but like many smaller businesses is now faced with the tricky decision of whether to raise the price of its products.
“We’ve done a price increase already this year to try and combat the increase in the raw materials and the utilities and we are actually looking at another one now. You always have the fear that you will possibly price yourself out of the market.” Mr Cavan said.
Tony Carrol’s family butchers in Ballinasloe rears its own stock, and has faced multiple price rises including animal feed.
“In the last three months everything has just gone out of control price-wise,” he said.
“With our suppliers everything is going up twenty, thirty or forty percent. Now on top of that we have the ESB bills which have doubled.”
Tony Carrol is also concerned by reports that a scarcity of energy this winter could lead to electricity blackouts for some businesses.
He said: “We’ll have to get a generator. It’s temperature controlled in this shop and in all the other butchers so we’d all be in the same boat. Hopefully, it won’t come to that.”
At Ballinasloe Credit Union, business development manager Shane McNeill says more people are inquiring about loans to pay energy bills.
Mr McNeill said: “We are seeing an increase in demand for finances for daily living expenses.
“People are worried about how they’re going to heat their homes, feed their families or pay their mortgages.”
And Mr McNeill said he’s seeing a lot more anxiety among customers with many worrying about Christmas costs in the wake of the back-to-school costs.
He said: “People can have a feeling that they are not in control of their financial destiny.” he said adding that customers are being offered money-saving tips.
“We are going back to the stage now where we are telling people to turn off the immersion. We’re going back to the 1970s and 80s. That’s where we are now.”
Mr McNeill who worked in banking for thirty years before joining Ballinasloe Credit Union believes the government could do a number of things to help people.
“The first thing the government should do is look at the social welfare payments and make sure that the most vulnerable out there are looked after first, those on fixed incomes.”
He said the Government could also look again at hybrid working so there are fewer long commutes and less money spent on petrol.
Mr McNeill said the Government should announce a moratorium on energy companies preventing them disconnecting customers for non-payment of bills or arrears.
He added: “We don’t want people with no light in the home this winter.”