CRU Announces Scheme to support SME Customers Affected by Covid-19 Pandemic

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), along with Gas and Electricity Suppliers, have announced the introduction of a temporary Supply Suspension Scheme for certain non-domestic customers impacted by Covid-19 restrictions. The scheme is intended to alleviate the pressures on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), by ensuring that qualifying customers will have no energy or network charges billed for their business premises supply point for the duration that the measure is in place.

Government measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 in Ireland have included the closure of all business premises providing non-essential services businesses.  The CRU considered that the unique and extraordinary circumstances of the current situation required a modification to the current approach to network charges. The scheme is available to SMEs that have been closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

To avail of the scheme, customers are required to engage with their supplier to complete an application form that outlines the forced closure of their business operations due to the current restrictions. Suppliers can then engage with the relevant network operator to include successful applicants  in the scheme.

One of the key objectives of the decision to introduce this temporary scheme, is to reduce the risk of bad debt in the energy sector over the Covid-19 pandemic period and to facilitate a more manageable return to trading operations for small to medium enterprises without the concern of energy debt that may have accumulated during the restrictions.  This approach is designed to assist both the businesses affected by the restrictions and the energy suppliers.

The scheme will be open for applications from 1 May 2020 and will be available until 31 July 2020. The CRU will monitor the scheme throughout this period and may adjust it if necessary.

To avail of the supply suspension scheme, electricity and gas SME customers must meet the following criteria:

  • the customer is not an essential service provider, as defined by the Government in the context of Covid-19; and
  • the customer was trading before the 13th March 2020; and
  • the customer’s premises has been closed as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions and will remain closed for a continuous period from 28th March 2020 and the date the relevant Covid-19 restrictions are lifted;
  • Electricity and gas customers must be within the appropriate usage bands or metering for each supply.

This measure comes following the recent extension of the moratorium on domestic electricity and gas disconnections to 16 June in line with government measures regarding Covid-19 to provide appropriate protection and reassurance for domestic electricity and gas customers during the current period of uncertainty.

In addition to the moratorium on disconnections, emergency credit levels for all gas prepayment customers were increased from €10 to €100. As gas credit cannot be purchased online, this measure has been applied to allow customers to remain connected for a period even if they cannot continue to purchase credit regularly as usual in a retail outlet.

Commenting on the announcement, Aoife MacEvilly, Chairperson of the CRU said: “The CRU is conscious of the challenges that both domestic and non-domestic customers are facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The domestic customer protection measures that were announced in March and extended to June 16 have provided a level of security for those customers. The measure announced today should support SME’s and their suppliers by avoiding the build-up of debt and facilitating the vital SME sector to get back up and running quickly when the current trading restrictions are lifted.”

Customers can find further information on the current Covid-19 protection measures on www.cru.ie or by calling our Customer Care Team on 1890 404 404.

Source: Commission of Regulation for Utilities 5/5/2020