Families pushed ‘over the brink’ by electricity price hike

The latest electricity price increase will push many familes “over the brink” into poverty, politicians have warned.

By Niall Deeney
Saturday, 21st May 2022, 8:30 am
More than 461,000 households will see their average electricity bill jump by around £204 a year
More than 461,000 households will see their average electricity bill jump by around £204 a year

Power NI announced a price hike of 27.5% yesterday that will see the bills of hundreds of thousands of people increase from July.

The price hike comes just days after average petrol and diesel prices in Northern Ireland rose to a new record high, as soaring inflation bites into household budgets.

Food prices have also shot up in recent weeks, with one study by the charity-owned consumer rights organisation Which? finding that the price of hundreds of popular grocery items has risen by more than 20% over the last two years alongside a drop in supermarket discounts and budget ranges

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East Belfast UUP MLA Andy Allen (pictured, inset) has warned that some families are now being pushed “over the brink” into outright poverty.

DUP MP Gavin Robinson, who represents the same largely inner-city constituency, also spoke of his fear that the latest price hike is unlikely to be the last.

“We can’t continue down the road that we’re going,” Mr Allen told the News Letter after the electricity price hike was announced yesterday.

“Families are being pushed over the brink.

“We have individuals and families not knowing where their next meal is coming from.

“We have people cutting back on the food that they are eating

“We have parents across our constituencies choosing not to eat so that their children’s food can go further.

“We have food banks running out of food. That is the harsh reality of what we’re seeing and we need urgent solutions from government.”

Mr Robinson, meanwhile, said: “This is unlikely to be the last price increase, which is the worrying thing.

“Our energy prices are dictated by global markets, global affairs and global conditions including the war in Ukraine.”

He continued: “The cost of coal, oil and gas influences the costs of how electricity is produced.

“All the Utility Regulator can do is make sure the electricity companies are not making more than 2% profit, so if he’s met with a request for an increase he has little option but to approve it.”

The 27.5% price increase from Power NI, Northern Ireland’s largest electricity company, will come into effect from the beginning of July for domestic customers.

This amounts to more than 461,000 households who will see their average bill jump by around £204 a year.

It is the latest in a series of price hikes announced by energy companies affecting customers in Northern Ireland.

The company said the rise is “entirely due to the sustained unparalleled price increases witnessed in the wholesale energy markets, which have been impacted by ongoing global issues”.

The tariff change has been approved by the Utility Regulator.

William Steele, director of Power NI customer solutions, said: “Regrettably, geopolitical factors outside our control have resulted in prolonged high costs in the international wholesale energy markets.

Raymond Gormley, head of energy policy at the Consumer Council, said: “This is Power NI’s second tariff increase this year and its biggest since October 2008. It will impact more than half Northern Ireland’s households, many of whom are already upset, worried, and angry about energy price increases.”s.

“With 53% of prepayment electricity consumers telling us they have had to cut back on food purchases to be able to afford a top-up, many households are going to need significant financial support in the coming winter.”

John French, chief executive of the Utility Regulator, said: “We continue to see a lot of volatility in the wholesale energy markets, which makes predicting when prices will start to drop extremely difficult.

“However, if wholesale prices do begin to reduce, our system of regulation in Northern Ireland allows us to act to make sure that reductions are fully passed on to consumers as quickly as possible.”

Meanhwile, the UUP’s Andy Allen expressed frustration at Stormont’s inability to act on the cost-of-living crisis amid the current political deadlock.

“It is hugely, hugely frustrating that we don’t have a government here,” he said. “People voted for politicians to go to work, to deliver on these day-to-day issues like the cost-of-living crisis.”

The DUP’a Gavin Robinson, manwhile, said: “Sir Jeffrey Donaldson [DUP leader] has been very clear about the briefings we have recieved from senior civil servants who have said is going to be swallowed up by government departments facing the same increase in costs and energy bills from last year’s budget.

“I think other parties are being disingenuous with the public when they suggest there is an easy fix to these global pressures.”