Energy Prices - October 2021
Utility Regulator Chief Executive, John French, signalled that electricity and gas consumers in Northern Ireland will unfortunately face further significant increases to their energy bills this winter. This is due to unparalleled rises in global wholesale gas markets that has never been experienced before.
Utility Regulator Chief Executive, John French said: “In August this year, I warned consumers that we were experiencing record increases in the global price of wholesale energy. This resulted in Firmus Energy and SSE Airtricity Gas Supply increasing their regulated tariffs by 35.15% and 21.8% respectively from 1 October 2021.
“Unfortunately, there has been a rapid and sustained acceleration of wholesale gas prices since then. When we agreed to Firmus Energy and SSE Airtricity Gas Supply’s new regulated tariff at the end of August, the wholesale cost of natural gas was £1.15 per therm – a then record high.
“However, with continuing supply constraints, mainly from reduced gas supplies from Russia, wholesale prices peaked at a new record high of nearly £4.10 per therm in early October. In the last week, the wholesale price has reduced slightly to around £2.40 per therm, but this is still a 109% increase from the end of August.
“With such a volatile market, it is really difficult to predict how long gas prices will stay high. But as a result of these record global prices we do expect to see a significant upward pressure on bills until summer 2022.
“As wholesale costs make up around half of both our gas and electricity bills, I unfortunately envisage further significant increases on both household and business energy bills in the coming weeks.
“These are challenging times, and I would encourage any consumer who is worried about paying their energy bill to contact their supplier to access the help and support that is available. There are also a number of agencies who can provide free and independent advice to households, including Advice NI, Christians Against Poverty, and Money and Pensions Service.
“Additionally, we are working with partners in the Department for the Economy, Department for Communities and the Consumer Council to actively explore practical measures to alleviate the burden of higher energy prices on consumers.
“While there appears to be no immediate sign that wholesale energy prices will return to normal levels, we will pro-actively monitor this. Should wholesale energy prices reduce, our system of regulation in Northern Ireland allows us to act to make sure that reductions are fully passed onto consumers as quickly as possible.
“Furthermore, I have written to all energy suppliers to ask them to actively support and protect consumers as tariffs increase and as winter approaches. In doing so, I re-iterated the need for energy companies to have a sympathetic approach to customers’ ability to pay. I have also reminded suppliers of their regulatory obligations to avoid customer disconnections and consider other approaches to protecting people in debt. Finally, I have asked energy suppliers to consider if they can either individually, or collectively, establish funds to help customers in immediate hardship this winter.”