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ENERGY CRISIS: Local firms say massive bills are simply unsustainable

September 12th, 2022 6:30 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Catherine and Mary Wharton said they will have to close their popular fish and chip shop at the end of September if government supports for energy costs are not introduced.

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RISING fuel costs could force much of West Cork’s tourism and hospitality sector to close during the winter months, according to hotelier Neil Grant.

When the manager of the Celtic Ross went public with the hotel’s fuel costs last week, others in the food and drinks sector spoke out about the crippling cost increases they are experiencing.

Neil Grant revealed that the hotel paid €7,700 for the hotel’s electricity bill for the month of July 2019, but that figure rose to €8,324 in July 2021.

However, it was the July 2022 bill of €18,262 which led him to believe many businesses aren’t going to see the winter out.

‘We are heading for a massive crisis,’ he said.

‘The last thing we, at the Celtic Ross, will do is become seasonal,’ added the manager, who confirmed they are in the middle of upgrading the hotel’s heating and boiler system.

In Bantry, Catherine Wharton of Wharton’s Fish and Chips said they will close their doors at the end of the month unless the government steps in.

‘We need government intervention immediately,’ she said. ‘Our bill for the month of August – 31 days – was €5,322.25.

An example of the bills landing at Wharton's Fish and Chip Shop in Bantry. Their energy bill for August alone was over €5,000.

 

‘There is no way we can sustain that because when you factor in the latest energy price increases our next bill could be €10,000,’ she added.

‘It cost us to close during the pandemic, but we came back. I don’t know if we can come back from this.’

‘What’s coming into the till is not balancing out,’ she added, ‘not when you consider what we are paying out, so what choice do we have but to close?

‘In addition to the energy costs, the price of potatoes, oil and the flour have skyrocketed too,’ she said. ‘Me and my sister Mary haven’t taken wages for six weeks in order to pay bills.’

In Skibbereen, Ruth Field of Field’s bakery confirmed that their energy costs are ‘over double what they were last year.’

‘Like everyone, everywhere,’ she said, ‘our costs are rising too, such as insurance, wages, gas and packing.

‘The cost of all of our raw materials – such as sugar and flour – have gone up in price since the beginning of the war on Ukraine, but Brexit was already having an impact.

‘Although we have been dealing with rising costs for six months,’ she said, ‘we haven’t passed the cost to our customer in terms of the price of our cakes and bread, but as costs continue to increase, it is putting pressure on everyone.’

Neil Grant: electricity bill is now over €18,000 a month. (Photo: Denis Boyle)

 

In Baltimore, a community endeavour, the Wild Atlantic Pool, has confirmed that it is now ‘in crisis’ due to the impact of Covid, and the huge hike in energy prices, which has pushed annual running costs to a staggering €250,000.

‘Pre-Covid,’ director Sekeeta Crowley said, ‘there were nearly 150 annual members supporting the pool, but this has dropped to 40.’

‘To put us on a sustainable financial footing, we need to raise the membership numbers to 200 annual members.’

‘If that target isn’t reached by October, the board of directors has reluctantly made the decision to close the centre at the end of this financial year,’ she added.

In Clonakilty, Michael Scully, the founder of Clonakilty Distillery, confirmed that they have had a 150% increase in electricity prices for the months of May and June, compared to last year, and a triple increase in gas prices.

‘To combat these rising costs,’ he said, ‘we are working to reduce our energy consumption and be as efficient as possible. We’re fortunate to have a distillery that recycles water and excess heat from our three large pot stills, and if we hadn’t taken these measures, costs could have been much higher.’

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