€13,000 energy bill: Cork businessman installing more solar panels in bid to combat rising costs

To cut costs, he is installing 60 more rooftop solar panels in his shops, bringing the number to 90.
€13,000 energy bill: Cork businessman installing more solar panels in bid to combat rising costs

A CORK businessman has spoken of his dismay after receiving a €13,000 energy bill and called for more State support for small businesses.

A CORK businessman has spoken of his dismay after receiving a €13,000 energy bill and called for more State support for small businesses.

Gary Martin runs the Egmont Stores in Churchtown and a store in Buttevant.

Recently, he received a €12,910.32 bill from Bord Gáis for the months of November and December.

“I knew it was coming. I was checking it every day,” he said.

“It was a shock, I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know for how much.”

The Government has a Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS) to assist with bills, but Mr Martin doesn’t fit the criteria. Applicants must have seen their bills rise by over 50% in the preceding 12 months.

“And because the way my contracts have ran, I am not entitled,” he said. “In 2019, it would have been about €5,000 over two months, and similarly in 2020. In 2021, it went up to about €7,000 over two months. So I’m not yet there, but on my next billing cycle I will be.”

Mr Martin’s stores employ 16 people, and he says he will have to reduce hours and staff if the bills keep mounting.

“I will pay it this time, but it’s when that next bill comes in. Where does that money come from?” said Mr Martin.

To cut costs, he is installing 60 more rooftop solar panels in his shops, bringing the number to 90. “It’s taken the edge off. On a summer’s day, I produce about €100 worth of electricity, but I’m using about €210 per day,” he said.

Mr Martin said his standing charge is over €5 per day, coming to €300, excluding Vat, over the billing period. The daily and night rates are the main items.

“I need so much energy to run the shop, about 75kW, that is what I need to draw in at any one time. There is a charge for that as well. A normal household would only need 10 or 15kW. Because I need so much, I get charged for it.”

Mr Martin said the 90 solar panels should protect against future increases.

“I take comfort in that it’s not just me. Everybody is going through the same thing.”

The Government should have been more proactive in capping energy prices, he said.

“Energy companies are making colossal amounts. Without the likes of me and the guy on the street employing 10 to 15 people, the economy would come to a halt.”

Mr Martin said he has had difficult conversations with his employees and that small businesses are not “cash rich”.

He added: “My staff know and hopefully we can pull through it.”

The stress keeps him awake at night. Every time the bill comes in, Mr Martin stops the direct debit and sets up a payment plan, this time for about €1,600 per week until the next bill.

Mr Martin said small and medium enterprises in Ireland employ more people than energy companies, and the Government has to start listening.

“They have proved that they can do it during Covid, with payments. They’ve proved they have the power to do what is necessary to protect the people. They should do it now, for businesses, what they did back in 2020,” said Mr Martin.

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