Economy

Energy costs crisis: Real stories from the people paying the price

As energy costs continue to spiral out of control, we hear the real stories from the people paying the price.

‘Government really needs to look at helping small businesses’

Nicola Cosgrave, who owns recreational business Kylemore Karting in Co Dublin, expects her electricity bills to increase by 40pc per month this winter

Our electricity consumption has increased considerably — not just lighting but all the sanitisation facilities that came into place because of Covid. We have a sanitation unit to clean kart helmets, and continually wash and dry all the suits for health and safety reasons. The three tracks have to be well-lit in the full arena, and so too does the building.

We have been going for 30 years and are open seven days a week — that’s a lot of light and heat, and many of our events take place in what is now being deemed peak energy rate times.

In lockdown we had taken to changing our practices in terms of energy efficiency. We changed our lights to LEDs — but obviously now, with increased energy rates, we are seeing the costs starting to creep up again and we are not seeing any savings.

We have doubled our monthly bill — but because we are linked into a group scheme, that keeps costs down. Our savings at present with this group scheme is 15pc to 20pc of the variable rate — but our concern will be the current market rate at the end of December. What we will be tied into through that group scheme could see our bills increase by 40pc per month.

Currently, our electricity costs are about €4,500 — but as for how much exactly we will be impacted, we are still trying to get answers to that.

We haven’t passed on any of those increased costs to the customer. We are mindful of what we have all come through, and have taken the hit in the short-term.

The Government was fast and effective when it came to the pandemic, and that greatly helped us in the short-term, but I think they need to look at helping small businesses right now.

Our business is recreational and is dependent on the public — and if everybody is feeling the pinch, then of course their spending power is diminished.

That will affect us all.

‘Taoiseach gets his chips here yet we may have to close’

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Catherine Wharton with her sister Mary

Catherine Wharton runs a fish and chip shop in Bantry, Co Cork with her sister Mary. She is concerned that she will not be able to pay her €10,000 electricity bill and will have to close.

I am crying now just thinking about the electricity bills that are coming our way. For two months our bills have been averaging €1,700, and now we are paying €8,000. I have just found out that our next bill is going to be €10,000. I bawled my eyes out this morning because I don’t know how I am going to pay for it. It is the final nail in the coffin for us.

We have worked so hard for what we are doing here. We haven’t taken wages in six weeks just so we have enough money to pay our electricity bill. When a fridge breaks down we can cut back to pay bills, but this is a serious cutback. We are without wages.

We can’t do without electricity, we have high-energy chicken machines, a holding unit and a presser fryer that we used to cook and because all our food is cooked to order the machines are on all the time and are expensive to run.

We are asking ourselves, do we need to cut chicken? Do we cut our burgers? Should we open four days instead of six? But then we can’t make enough money that way, we need to work out our margins. We have to stay working to make ends meet.

We are obsessed with keeping the shop clean and to do that takes boiling water, we are constantly using the dishwasher. Our hot water tank now costs €40 euro a day to run, it used to be €12. We are trying to cut back on the dishwasher but it is almost impossible when you are running a takeaway business.

I am a single mother, I finance my 14-year-old child by myself, we are not taking any holidays. If we close down I will have to move my daughter out of here and everything will have to go, everything we have worked hard for.

I think in two months’ time we won’t be able to pay €10,000. I am scared of my life that we will have to shut down. Do I really think we will have to close? 110pc I do. We will have no option but to close unless the Government steps in and helps, unless our bills are capped.

I have emailed every TD asking for them, including Micheál Martin who eats chips here, to tell them there is a tsunami coming this winter and it will close many Irish businesses.

‘We might have to cut trading time – and that affects jobs’

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Kelly Murphy, owner of SuperValu in Cootehill. (Picture: Arthur Carron)

Kelly Murphy manages her family’s shop, Foy’s SuperValu, in Cootehill, Co Cavan. Along with her father John Foy, they fear an increase in energy bills could cost jobs.

I am worried about what an increase in energy costs will mean for our business — which has been in our family for over 20 years — and the impact that it will have on us, our staff and our jobs.

Already in this part of Cavan other businesses are seeing a rise in excess energy prices of 240pc and we forecast that our energy bills will go from €9,400 on average to over €20,000 a month come October, November, December.

Our business is around 2,000 square feet and if those bills go up by €100,000 each year — and we didn’t make €100,000 last year — it means we are not going to be in business next year.

We think it is going to threaten some jobs if we cannot afford to pay our ESB costs.

We are going to have to look at cutting back on the number of hours we are trading, so maybe instead of opening at 8am we might open at 9am; instead of closing at 10pm we might reduce that to 8pm.

That would mean reducing staff hours, which is going to have an impact on employment.

Instead of baking all day, maybe we will just turn the ovens on once or twice a day — and not have them on every two hours when the need arises to put on bread or chickens. We are going to have to find ways to cut back.

We need electricity in our shop for almost everything: refrigeration, lights, displays, the serving counter, air conditioning to keep certain temperatures, the ovens for baking, the ice machines to make sure there is ice for fish, for recharging the forklifts, keeping the computers going, the terminals for cash handling, the tills, keeping the post office computers going.

There is such a variety of things that can’t be reduced and we are getting no help whatsoever.

To make things worse, there is nothing coming down the road to support the business community to stop that frightening bill coming in this winter — and that worries us.

‘Will Facebook have their power cut before us? I don’t think so. We’ll be the first to go’

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Fish producer Ronan Quinlan of Kerry Fish, Renard, Cahersiveen with his Electric Irleand bill for a staggering €11,007 for the month of July. (Photo: Don MacMonagle)

Ronan Quinlan is the third generation working at the family business, Quinlan’s Kerry Fish, in Co Kerry. Based on predictions, the company director believes their electricity costs could soar to over €400,000 a year.

We have processing and seafood bars and restaurants in Cork and Kerry, and fish and chip bars. This time last year our electricity bill in the processing plant was €9,950 a month, this year it’s around €17,750.

It will be more — there is more coming down the track and that is the problem. We are told it could go to €35,000 a month so if that happens it could be costing us over €400,000 a year on just electricity and gas.

I feel totally demoralised. The most worrying part of this for us is what will happen in the next few months. We smoke salmon in the winter to export all over Europe and it is very time-sensitive. We have a limited window to get it out the door on a Friday evening to get to our customers.

The biggest cost we will have is the ovens that smoke the salmon, which is why we spent €100,000 on a generator in case we have a power cut. I am told it can power our village.

We use a huge amount of electricity: We have a filleting machine, then the fish is washed and put in the oven for 22 hours at substantial cost. Then they have to be chilled, boned, put through slicing machines, vacuum pack machines, refrigeration and back into a chill room.

We worry that the hike in our costs will impact our business. We are not working to extract the money out of the business, we are working to reinvest it. We are in our third generation now and we want to build our business for the future.

If they cut the power in rural Ireland it impacts a lot of people and I feel we will be the first to go. Take the likes of Facebook or Google in Dublin, will they have their power cut before us? I don’t think so.

There is zero support for businesses. The Government talks about building gas reserves, why is that not being done? We have no energy security, we have no food security. Is it fair? Absolutely not but this Government seems to be sitting on their hands doing nothing to help.

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