Between a severe cold snap spreading across eastern Europe and ongoing difficulties in the relationship between the EU and Russia, Irish consumers could be facing further gas price hikes in the weeks ahead.

As reported in The Irish Times, consumers in Ireland have faced multiple price increases since the start of the year with the cost of annual bills rising by anywhere between €500 and over €1,000.

In a bid to address the rising costs, the Government recently announced plans to offset some price hikes with a €100 rebate for the start of 2022. However, this could prove meaningless if wholesale prices remain high and providers increase prices again.

Following concerns over Russian manoeuvres in utility markets, wholesale gas prices jumped to record highs this week.

This could prove problematic for consumers as Russia supplies round 35 per cent of Europe’s gas. There are ongoing concerns that Russian president Vladimir Putin might restrict supplies into Europe as a means to exert political influence.

Russia has denied such concerns, however, markets have remained hyper sensitive to any prospect of Russia halting the flow of gas to Europe.

Daragh Cassidy, of price comparison and switching site, said there has been an eight-fold increase in the cost of gas on UK markets over the last 12 months.

Part of the reason for such increases is the disruption of supply chains due to Covid-19, he explained.

Mr Cassidy commented that the price of gas “almost always goes up during the winter months as demand invariably increases due to cold weather.

“And this is what we’re seeing now as some quite severe cold is sweeping into Russia, Scandinavia and eastern Europe,” he added.

“The problem is that the increase is coming on top of prices that are already at record levels.”

According to Mr Cassidy, the impact on households could be severe, although it very much depends on how long prices remain high.

“A lot of the increases in wholesale gas prices this year were not fully passed on to Irish consumers in the hope that prices would ease back. But as we can see, that’s not happening.

“However gas and electricity prices in Ireland have ‘only’ increased by between around 25 per cent and 70 per cent So you can see where things might be going the longer this goes on.”

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