Belfast Telegraph

Electricity price hike shock to system for small firms

By Paul Gosling

Electricity prices are rising substantially above the general rate of inflation.

Power NI is raising its electricity prices to consumers by 18.6% from October 1 and by comparable amounts to commercial customers. Its main competitor, Airtricity, is expected to make a similar price rise.

Stephen McCully, managing director of Power NI, explained: “Our last price increase was three years ago and since then we’ve managed to either freeze or cut prices, so I’m very disappointed to have to make this announcement.

“However, we have been faced with steadily rising wholesale gas and oil prices over the last two years and we can’t hold our prices any longer.”

Wilfred Mitchell, policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), responded: “This latest hike in prices comes as world oil prices are actually at their lowest level for three months.

“Unless action is taken by the government, both at Westminster and at Stormont, small businesses will simply see energy prices rising relentlessly into the future.

“Consumers here already face the highest charges for electricity in the UK and these massive increases are yet another blow to both the small business sector and the entire local economy, as the extra costs reduce spending capacity at a time when it is needed more than ever.”

Both the FSB and the Consumer Council called on the Northern Ireland Executive to intervene to reduce the cost of energy here.

Power NI is owned by a Middle East private equity fund, which recently sold the separated electricity distribution business to ESB.

Airtricity is a subsidiary of Scottish and Southern Energy.

Belfast Telegraph