Householders across Northern Ireland will see their energy bills slashed after both NIE and Firmus today announced another round of price cuts.
As the Belfast Telegraph reported earlier this month, NIE is to reduce the cost of electricity by 5%, saving its residential and business customers on average £26 a year, while Firmus is to knock 17.7% of the cost of gas, meaning its customers will be £96 a year better off.
It comes just days after Phoenix Gas said it was decreasing its tariffs by 19%, saving householders £104 a year.
NIE Energy managing director Stephen McCully said: “We know household budgets are tight at the moment, so we are pleased to be able to cut prices for the second time.”
Today’s move by NIE follows a 10.8% price cut in January. The new tariff will come into effect on October 1.
NIE Energy supplies 749,650 domestic and 43,700 business customers and the reduction means the average NIE householder’s bill will be £496 per year.
The Utility Regulator welcomed the news, but the Consumer Council described NIE’s price cut as “disappointing”.
Chief executive Iain Osborne said: “Our ongoing scrutiny of tariffs means consumers feel the benefits of cost reductions in their bills as soon as possible. During 2009, this has meant electricity bills in Northern Ireland have fallen more quickly than other parts of the UK or Republic.
“Falling wholesale costs have been the primary reason for both electricity price decreases during 2009.”
He added: “This 5% reduction in power costs is less than we saw in gas. This is chiefly because consumers already saw two-thirds of the reduction (the 10.8% drop in January), and also because some costs have gone up.”
The Consumer Council said the 5% decrease in electricity bills announced by NIE Energy today falls short of consumers’ expectation and is the result of a system which is not working for consumers.
Chief executive of the Consumer Council, Antoinette McKeown, said: “While any reduction is welcome, today’s announcement equates to an annual saving of just £26, that’s 50 pence per week off the average electricity bill — negligible for those currently in fuel poverty. Coming after a 40% reduction in wholesale fuel over the last year and after Phoenix’s decision to reduce bills by 19%, and Firmus today by 17.7%, consumers will be disappointed.”
Mark Prentice, Firmus energy’s general manager, said: “We are delighted to announce such a significant reduction in gas bills for our customers, particularly as we come into the winter months.”