Today, Utility Regulator Chief Executive, John French, announced tariff reviews are underway for two regulated gas suppliers, SSE Airtricity Gas Supply and Firmus Energy.
Commenting on the tariff reviews, John French said:
“We are reviewing the tariffs of SSE Airtricity Gas Supply and Firmus Energy, as unfortunately wholesale gas prices have significantly increased since the last tariff announcement on 1 June.
“Wholesale gas prices have risen considerably over the last six weeks, as Russia has reduced its gas flows into the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe by 80%. These price movements have been further exacerbated by Asian and South American countries buying more liquefied natural gas (LNG), the higher than usual temperatures in Europe, outages in the French nuclear power station fleet, and historic price rises in the US gas market.
“The price impact of these events has been considerable. For example, wholesale gas being sold for consumption in winter 2022 was trading at £2.41 per therm on 1 June 2022. By market close on 16 August 2022, it had reached £5.62 per therm. Unfortunately, these increases in wholesale gas price increases will have an impact on consumers in Northern Ireland, as wholesale energy costs now make up three quarters of consumers’ bills.
“Therefore, there will be increases in the regulated gas tariffs (SSE Airtricity Gas supply and Firmus Energy) in Northern Ireland. These increases will be announced in the coming weeks, once our reviews have been completed. At this stage, we are reviewing regulated gas tariffs only, and are keeping the situation on regulated electricity tariffs under review.
“In the middle of this current cost of living crisis, it gives me no pleasure to make this announcement. I recognise that the impact of these further price increases is another severe blow for consumers. While the underlying causes of these tariff increases are outside our control, we remain focused on doing whatever we can to support consumers in these desperate times. Over the last week, I have met the Chancellor of the Exchequer and local ministers twice to work together to deliver the £400 of energy bill support scheme to every Northern Ireland household. The timely delivery of this support to local households is critical, and we continue to work with others to find a pragmatic and robust way of getting this money to consumers as soon as possible.
“It is also incumbent on us as a regulator, and others across government and industry, to work together to support consumers as winter approaches. For that reason, I have invited government departments, energy suppliers and the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland to meet to look urgently at other practical steps that can be taken to support consumers this winter.
“Furthermore, we are using everything in our regulatory toolbox to support consumers. I will continue to remind energy suppliers of the need for a sympathetic approach to customers’ ability to pay, and of their obligations to avoid customer disconnections and consider other approaches to protecting people in debt.
“Consumers who are worried about the impact of these higher prices should always contact their electricity or gas supplier in the first instance, to discuss the options available to them. In addition, 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.”
For further information, please contact Greg Irwin on 07794 965 911.
Notes to editor
- The Utility Regulator is the independent non-ministerial government department responsible for regulating the electricity and gas industries and water and sewerage services in Northern Ireland.
- Further information on the support available to energy customers is available at www.nidirect.gov.uk/covid-19-energy-debt-advice and within the consumer protection section of the Utility Regulator’s website www.uregni.gov.uk. The Consumer Council’s website has energy advice for consumers during these difficult times and also provides an independent energy price comparison tool to help consumers save money.
- A number of agencies can provide free and independent advice, including Advice NI, Money and Pensions Service and Christians Against Poverty. There is also more information on support for natural gas customers from the www.naturalgasni.com website.