High energy and fuel bills are yet another financial worry for families and businesses across Northern Ireland this winter

News Letter editorial of Friday November 19 2021:

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

It is a very worrying financial time for households across Northern Ireland, particularly those on low budgets.

After the long uncertainty of the Covid lockdowns for employments and incomes, we have now seen furlough end at just the time that energy prices have soared.

Petrol and diesel have rocketed in cost, as have gas and oil, and now electricity too – Power NI is raising its tariff by 21.4%.

Such energy price hikes are both a reflection of inflation and a cause of it. The causes of this are global but there are national and local factors too.

There are always calls for yet more government funds to help in these situations, and at times intervention in one form or another, such as altering tax rates, is appropriate.

But consider for example the fact that this electricity rise is being in large part blamed on the lack of wind during the summer. Note then that Stormont in its push for emission-free renewables has, like the Republic of Ireland, never so much as considered nuclear power.

This is both hypocritical, given the power grids on this island are linked to Great Britain, where much of supply is generated by nuclear, and short sighted, given that nuclear is a non carbon option. This explains why France, which heavily uses nuclear power, has found it easier to reach emission targets than Germany, which is phasing out nuclear.

Another factor in the energy price rises is the general inflationary policies pursued in London. However, other causes are entirely outside the control of Stormont or even Westminster.

In the long-term, improving home heating efficiencies achieved via better construction and insulation, and ever more efficient vehicle fuel efficiency, will make it easier for families to withstand such periods of high utility bills.

But that is cold comfort for households this winter. It is essential that when underlying price fundamentals change, these are promptly passed on to users.

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