Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

No escape from power price hike

Northern Ireland consumers will not escape the 33% hike in their electricity bills despite the announcement of a review of the price rise.

Although Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) Minister Arlene Foster announced yesterday that former Utility Regulator Douglas McIldoon will oversee a probe into whether the hike — announced earlier this month — was justified, the increase will go ahead as planned in 11 days’ time.

Chairman of DETI Committee at Stormont, Mark Durkan, speaking after members questioned the Utility Regulator over the planned review, said the investigation will only examine the process of setting tariffs.

“It will not lay a finger on the price increase which was sanctioned by the Regulator and consumers will still get those hefty bills,” he said.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment today told the Telegraph that the October 1 price will go ahead, but admitted uncertainty as to what the regulator could eventually recommend.

“The price increase will go ahead as planned and will come into effect on October 1. It’s not possible to pre-empt the outcome of the review,” a spokeswoman said.

The review will examine the Utility Regulator's scrutiny of the proposed tariff increase; the consultation between NIE Energy, the Regulator, the Consumer Council and DETI; whether the price rise was justified; the Regulator’s scrutiny of hedging processes; and any policy areas that should be addressed to improve effectiveness and fairness of risk management in the energy industry.

The announcement of the review comes in response to the widespread public outcry about the looming increase by one third in the cost of electricity, something that puts renewed pressure on households and businesses.

NIE Energy has received approval from the Utility Regulator, Iain Osborne, for a 33.3% increase, and the new rates take effect on October 1. Mr Osborne has invited his predecessor, Mr McIldoon, to handle the probe which will examine whether the increase is justified.

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