'Should Christmas lights be cancelled?': Businesses worry about unprecedented energy costs

While a second household energy credit has been promised before the end of the year, Cork retailers are wondering about the impact on disposable incomes and festive lights for the Christmas season.
'Should Christmas lights be cancelled?': Businesses worry about unprecedented energy costs

Christmas scenes at Cork City centre on Friday 11th December 2020. Pic; Larry Cummins

“UNPRECEDENTED” energy costs continue to climb for Cork businesses and residents, as yet another supplier has hiked prices.

While a second household energy credit has been promised before the end of the year, Cork retailers are wondering about the impact on disposable incomes and festive lights for the Christmas season.

Kevin Herlihy, of the Herlihy Centra Group and president of the Cork Business Association, said his own energy costs have tripled this month, and the situation is “completely unprecedented”.

He said concerns are being expressed amongst Cork businesses about further increases coming down the tracks, and the sustainability of things such as Christmas lights in the city centre.

“There is a question out there asking, should Christmas lights be cancelled? But then you think, that would be like cancelling Christmas. 

"There have been suggestions that we could cut down the amount of hours the lights are on for… I don’t know will it make a huge difference, but it would make some difference,” he said.

Kevin Herlihy of Herlihy Centra Group.Pic: Brian Lougheed
Kevin Herlihy of Herlihy Centra Group.Pic: Brian Lougheed

“We would be in favor of putting a price cap on the energy companies. It’s the ordinary households and small SMEs that are suffering. A price cap would be some kind of help to businesses and to households,” he added.

Energia announced on Wednesday that its electricity prices will rise by 33.5%, and gas prices will leap by 47.11%, from 7 October – the second price rise from the provider this year, and expected given its competitors have announced similar increases.

When accounting for the three price rises Energia implemented last year, Bonkers.ie estimates that households are looking at paying over €1,200 more for their electricity and over €1,000 more for their gas per year.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan promised on Wednesday that households can expect a second electricity credit before Christmas, following a €200 credit issued in April to help tackle the cost of living crisis.

“We held back. A lot of people were arguing we should have done a mini budget in the summer and we said at the time ‘no’, because the time this is going to hit is the late autumn/ early next year,” he said. 

“So I think it was absolutely right for us to hold our fire, to wait to see what the real situation was in the autumn, and that’s when we need to provide supports. That’s the right time to do it,” he added.

Mr Ryan also added that “we will intervene to give supports for businesses directly” to help with soaring energy bills which he said could see people’s bills double.

However Cork business owners are concerned about the lack of supports currently in place. Aidan Duke, owner of Duke’s Coffee, said that his energy costs have doubled in recent months.

Aidan Duke, owner, outside Dukes Coffee Company, Carey's Lane, Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.
Aidan Duke, owner, outside Dukes Coffee Company, Carey's Lane, Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

He says that while some media coverage of the energy crisis is exaggerated and “disconnected” from real life, people are wary, and he himself is considering raising his prices to cover the rising costs of business.

“I absolutely am worried… all the input costs to the business have gone through the roof… as has the energy, but the sales have been very strong still. The winter will definitely be different, because there’ll be less disposable income around,” he said. 

“There absolutely does need to be assistance. The state are shareholders in a lot of these energy companies so they can actually control this, it’s within their remit.”

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