Economy

Cork businesses express concern over soaring energy costs

BUSINESS figures in Cork are grappling to find solutions to alleviate the pressure of exorbitant energy bills, of which they say they have never seen the like of.

In recent days, several energy providers announced increases in gas and electricity prices for consumers, sparking widespread concern.

Kevin Herlihy, of the Herlihy Centra Group, said the business has seen “huge” energy price hikes of late.

“We were paying 13.5c per kilowatt hour (kWh) and this month that is going to go to 32c per kWh,” Mr Herlihy, who is also the president of the Cork Business Association (CBA), told The Echo.

“It’s bananas. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“We’ve been having crisis meetings at work over the last couple of weeks trying to decide what we’re going to do, how we’re going to alleviate it,” he said.

With such rising energy bills and other climbing expenses, Mr Herlihy said it is a concerning time for traders.

“All in all, it’s quite a scary time. We were just out of Covid, we thought things were going to be ok, we’d get back to normal, and all of a sudden there’s this,” he said.

Mr Herlihy said the CBA recently met with Government to voice their concerns and said that he is hopeful that measures will be brought in to assist businesses.

“We met with Government recently to put our point across.

“We’re hoping to meet them again before the Budget. To be fair, they hear us. We’ve asked for an energy price cap.

“I don’t know is there the appetite in Government to do that,” he said. 

Emergency measures 

Speaking this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the price hikes reflect a “broader exponential rise” in energy prices.

“The last week or two have seen pretty dramatic, unprecedented increases in pricing in terms of forward purchases of energy on the wholesale market,” Mr Martin added.

He said that EU energy ministers will meet on September 9 to bring forward emergency measures to curb soaring prices.

From a Government perspective, Mr Martin said it “will use the Budget and also in tandem with the Budget the cost-of-living package, to alleviate pressures on households”.

“We’ll also have to look at the impact on businesses in terms of jobs and the retention of jobs, of this exponential growth in prices. We will deal with that as best we can in terms of alleviating pressures on people which are clear.

“We will also be launching a demand reduction approach. In other words, energy efficiency, and all of us will have to see what we can do to reduce our energy consumption,” he added.

Calls for Government action 

In a tweet earlier this week, general manager of the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery, Neil Grant, said the hotel received a staggering electricity bill of €18,262 for the month of July.

This was in comparison to an electricity bill of €7,700 in July of 2019 and €8,324 in July of 2021.

Pictured at the Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery Co Cork was Mgr Neil Grant who was highlighting the huge rise in energy Bills. Picture Denis Boyle

Speaking to The Echo, Mr Grant said the hotel was “flabbergasted” by the price of the bill.

Mr Grant said he would be “more shocked” if the hotel’s electricity bill for August isn’t as high as the one in July as the hotel has been “operating at the same level of business”.

“We’ve always been focused on trying to improve our energy consumption.

“We’re in the process of upgrading our heating system which has been a project over four or five years that we’ve been trying to get on top of and we’re in the closing stretch of hopefully retrofitting, to a certain extent, our business to be able to sustain shocks like this.

“We still don’t know will that be enough.

“We still don’t know once the time comes if any savings we’d hoped to make we will make.

“I think at times like this you’ve just got to try and find an alternative way and that’s what we’ll try and do,” he continued.

Mr Grant said speaking to other hoteliers they have the same concerns and called for the Government to act urgently.

“The Government has got to listen to households, they’ve got to listen to SMEs, they’ve got to listen to many other stories like mine and say this is real and this is not right,” he said.

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