UK energy price surge: NI well placed - for now - says Consumer Council
The Consumer Council says that there is “not a huge amount to worry about straight away” on gas and electricity prices in NI.
Peter McClenaghan, Director of Infrastructure & Sustainability with the Consumer Council of NI, was speaking after the English Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the combination of rising gas prices and the looming £20 a week cut to Universal Credit was a “difficult situation” for the winter ahead.
Mr McClenaghan noted that prices are set differently in Northern Ireland, by a utility regulator operating with the Consumer Council.
And because there are so few gas companies in NI, the council works closely with them and understands how they buy energy in advance.
“That means we can be confident that prices will stay the same for gas until March next year,” he said.
He noted that gas prices from Firmus and SSE Airtricity had risen prices some 35% since the end of August.
“So there is potential for another increase in March and that is obviously very worrying for consumers.”
But the council is working with energy suppliers, the regulator and Stormont to look at “potential fuel poverty initiatives”.
Asked about the possibility of some smaller electricity companies in NI going under, he said the regulator has “a very robust supplier of last resort mechanism” which automatically transfers customers to another supplier in such cases. But he advised consumers whose supplier fails, to photograph their meter as evidence of their usage in case of dispute.
“So there is not a huge amount to worry about straight away there,” he added. However anyone who is worried should contact their energy supplier, which are all required to have vulnerable customer measures in place.