Energy regulator hopes Stormont can deliver fuel mitigating measures in NI

The energy regulator has said he remains hopeful that Stormont will be able to deliver “mitigation measures” to tackle rising energy costs.

Saturday, 20th November 2021, 9:55 pm

John French said on Saturday he had been meeting regularly with the Department for Communities, the Department for the Economy and the Consumer Council to discuss the possibility of “mitigation measures”.

“I’m still hopeful that something will be able to be done to help consumers coming into this winter,” he said.

Earlier this week, Power NI announced a price hike of almost 22% for its domestic electricity customers in a move attributed to soaring global wholesale energy costs.

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A lack of wind during the summer has also been cited as a contributory factor, with lower rates of renewable electricity generation leading to a greater reliance on fossil fuel-fired power stations.

The 21.4% increase, which will add £2.51 to an average weekly household bill, will come into effect on January 1.

The company said the tariff change, which has been approved by the Utility Regulator, was a result of price rises in the global wholesale gas markets.

Mr French told BBC Radio Ulster: “Unfortunately, what we’ve seen this year is a once-in-a-lifetime blip in terms of the spike in wholesale energy costs. Energy costs have just rocketed on the energy markets this year.

“It is just down to the vagaries of the market and what really the profit margins are allowed behind that.

“In the last 18 months, we’ve gone from the lowest position to the highest position.”

The announcement from Power NI is the latest in a series of price increases made by electricity and gas suppliers in recent months.

Giving evidence to a Stormont committee earlier this month, the Consumer Council said the price for heating a home in Northern Ireland rose by 70% in October.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has called on the Treasury to introduce a VAT exemption on energy bills during the period of surging costs.

The spiralling energy prices have also led to calls for the Stormont Executive to introduce emergency measures to protect families who are struggling to pay their fuel bills.

Mr French said he was optimistic there would be no price rises until April next year.

However, he said that high prices were likely to stay a reality for the coming years.

“We’re probably going to see high prices for the next two to three years, if the market stays stable,” he said.

“The market is just so unpredictable.”

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