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Firmus 12% gas price rise adds £61 annual bills

By Margaret Canning

Gas supplier Firmus has announced a 12.2% price hike for its Northern Ireland 80,000 customers - the second energy giant to bump up bills in five days.

The firm said it would add £1.18 per week to customers' accounts, amounting to an extra £61 per year.

The company blamed the price rise, which it said was its first in three years, on the soaring cost of wholesale gas - a trend that has also brought increases to oil and petrol.

SSE Airtricity last week announced price increases of 7.6% from the end of this month.

Firmus supplies gas to towns and villages around Northern Ireland and is a challenger in the greater Belfast area.

It made its first inroads into the market with the so-called '10 towns' at the heart of its licensed area. And Antrim, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Coleraine, Craigavon (including Lurgan and Portadown), Limavady, Londonderry and Newry will be hit with the rise from the end of this month.

In greater Belfast the firm has 50,000 customers, compared to 140,000 for SSE Airtricity. These customers will face the increase from April 7.

Firmus Energy managing director Michael Scott said: "We understand the importance of price stability for customers and apologise for having to increase prices.

"Over the past three years we have been able to reduce or maintain our prices.

"We appreciate that this is not good news for customers. However, this tariff change is driven by the rising wholesale natural gas commodity market."

The price increase was announced following a formal tariff review process that involved the energy company, the Utility Regulator, the Department for the Economy and watchdog the Consumer Council.

Firmus has been part of Icon Infrastructure since it was sold by Bord Gais in the Republic three years ago.

Kevin Shiels, from the Utility Regulator, said: "The main reason for this tariff change is due to the increase in international wholesale energy costs.

"The increase in international wholesale energy costs has also affected the price of petrol and home heating oil.

"We will continue to monitor Firmus Energy's costs and, should wholesale gas costs or other cost elements decrease, we will act as soon as possible to ensure that this reduction is reflected in consumer bills."

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