Priority Vulnerable Customers: How To Apply in 2023?

Priority and Vulnerable Customer List on a clipboard with a pen and house behind it

Having a constant energy supply for your home is of the utmost importance for priority or vulnerable customers, who may be dependent on uninterrupted gas and electricity supply for a range of reasons. We delve into further detail into who are considered ESB vulnerable customers in Ireland and how to ensure they receive uninterrupted service.

Looking for Financial Relief? This article talks about how the supply of energy is guaranteed to those who cannot be cut off at any time. If you are looking for financial assistance with your energy bill due to difficult times, have a look at the different government schemes available.

Do I Qualify As a Vulnerable Electricity Customer?

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Vulnerable customers are defined as those consumers who may be put at risk due to interruption of electricity or gas supply. For example, customers with medical conditions, or those who have certain communication requirements. Within the scope of vulnerable customers falls the most important category of priority customers. We look in further detail as to who qualifies as a vulnerable customer for electricity and gas:

Priority customers are customers who require life support equipment which needs electricity to run.

These customers may be at risk when gas or electricity is cut off for a longer period. Elderly customers, to be considered vulnerable, must satisfy any of the following circumstances:

People over 70 years of age are also eligible for the Free Electricity Allowance under the Household Benefits Package. This can save you €35 per month on your electricity bills.

This category consists of customers who cannot simply and easily pick up the phone should they be cut off, and may include:

  1. Priority customers
  2. Elderly and disabled customers
    • They live alone.
    • They live with other elderly people.
    • They live with minors.
  3. Special communication customers
    • Visually impaired customers.
    • Hearing impaired customers.
    • Mobility impaired customers.

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Why Register As a Priority or Vulnerable Customer?

There are several important advantages to being registered as a vulnerable customer.

  • No Cut Off
    Priority customers dependent on life support cannot be cut off at the suppliers' request, unless for safety reasons (or if the customer requests it).
  • Elderly Customers Safe
    Elderly customers cannot be cut off from electricity or gas during the colder months (from 1st November to 31st March).
  • Supplier Aid Obligation
    Energy suppliers must attempt to aid customers who might become vulnerable as a result of prolonged disconnection.
  • Support for Visually Impaired Customers
    For any customers who have visual impairments, both suppliers and network operators have to develop an alternative - and standard - way of communicating with them. For example, to report an emergency situation, or to verify the identity of network or supplier representatives who call their home.

Also of great importance is that priority customers need to be made aware of any alternatives available should their supply be interrupted by circumstances beyond the supplier’s control, e.g. by a storm.

What Are the CRU Requirements for Vulnerable Consumers?

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All energy suppliers in Ireland are required to identify, register, and update a register of vulnerable customers. Where the customer is a priority customer, an extra application form will be needed for those who are dependent on life support equipment.

The supplier is responsible for completing the customer’s registration, and registering their details in the central database for vulnerable customers, which the responsible network operators, Gas Networks and ESB Networks Ireland, can then access. This information must be updated by the supplier at least every two years after registering for the first time.

Electricity and gas suppliers must design a code of practice for vulnerable customers, and their implementation of it must be approved by the CRU. Anyone applying for priority or vulnerable customer status is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Can I Have a Prepayment Meter As a Vulnerable Customer?

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Even if a vulnerable customer requests one, suppliers are required to carefully examine whether a PAYG meter would be compatible with the needs of a vulnerable customer. In situations where a customer’s impairment or particular circumstances might make it difficult for them to use or top up a PAYG meter, other alternatives to PAYG meters should be considered.

To ensure no disruption of your energy supply for non-payment, anyone falling into the vulnerable customer category should consequently avoid the use of pay-as-you-go-only providers Pinergy and PrepayPower when choosing an energy supplier for their home.

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How Can I Register As a Vulnerable Customer?

Each energy supplier has a code of practice regarding vulnerable customers, and different ways to register as one. For the majority of suppliers, you'll need to contact customer service in order to request the form, but in some cases, you can download it directly from their website. We list below the details for each energy supplier in Ireland.

We highly recommend that priority and vulnerable customers register as such so they can be at the top of the list for help if, and when, blackouts occur or the gas is cut off. Vulnerable customers should be aware that they will need to liaise with their energy suppliers to register as a vulnerable or priority customer.

Who Are ESB Vulnerable Customers?

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Even though the registry for priority and vulnerable customers will mainly be used by ESB Networks and Gas Networks Ireland, customers can only apply for it via their current energy provider.

ESB Networks will use the vulnerable electricity customer register to:

  • Advise vulnerable customers at least three days in advance of a planned outage.
  • Assign priority to customers who contact them and rely on life support during unplanned outages.
  • Contact life-support equipment-dependent customers during unplanned outages.

What if I have life-support equipment?Customers who depend on life-support equipment should always have a backup plan to deal with an unanticipated electricity supply interruption. This could include keeping a fully charged backup battery or being ready to temporarily relocate to a location which is unlikely to be disconnected or likely to have a backup electricity supply (e.g. a hospital).

ESB networks also adhere to the Department of Defence's Protocol for Utility Companies in the event of an emergency. This means that should they encounter a vulnerable customer, they will encourage them to get help from friends and family, and if that is not possible, they will contact the appropriate authority and relay the necessary information (e.g. An Garda Siochána).

Who Are Gas Networks Ireland Vulnerable Customers?

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As with ESB Networks, Gas Networks Ireland will also provide special services to vulnerable customers, such as:

  1. No Risk of Cut Off
    Customers on the special services register will not have their gas supply disconnected between 1st November to 31st March.
  2. Reconnection Priority
    Customers on the special services register will be given priority for reconnection in the event of an outage.
  3. Provisions Ahead of Outages
    For planned interruptions, Gas Networks Ireland will also provide home-heating and cooking facilities in the form of an electric heater and an electric cooker.
  4. Security Facilities for Visually Impaired Customers
    If you are visually impaired, you can contact Gas Networks and agree to a security password to verify the identity of Gas Networks field staff.
  5. Contact Ahead of Planned Outages
    Gas Networks will contact vulnerable customers in advance to notify them of planned outages.

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