Power NI electricity prices rise by inflation-busting 6.1%
Households across Northern Ireland are facing a 6.1% hike in their electricity bills, with the average bill going up by 67p a week.
Power NI, which supplies three out of five homes across Northern Ireland, announced the price increase yesterday and blamed it on increases in costs from the electricity network provider and market operator.
The rise, which will mean bills go up by an average of £35 a year and will come into force on October 1, is the latest to be experienced by Power NI customers, coming after the company implemented a 14% rise last winter.
Power NI's managing director Stephen McCully said the firm has worked hard to keep costs to the customer as low as possible.
"Unfortunately, like all suppliers, we have no alternative but to pay these increased network and market charges, which have a knock-on effect on our prices," he said.
Mr McCully pointed out that, even after the change, Power NI prices are significantly below the main suppliers in Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and across Europe.
They are also £80 cheaper than they were a decade ago.
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Mr McCully continued: "As we did a few years ago, should costs fall, that will be reflected in our prices at the earliest opportunity."
Power NI consulted with the Utility Regulator prior to setting the new rates.
The watchdog's chief executive Jenny Pyper said: "Approving any increase to electricity bills is not a decision we take lightly.
"It is disappointing that, due to a number of rising costs, Power NI need to increase their domestic tariff.
"However, we have fully scrutinised every element of the tariff to ensure it reflects the actual cost of supplying electricity to Northern Ireland homes and is therefore justified."
Ms Pyper continued: "Many consumers will be aware that global gas prices are normally a key factor in setting electricity prices.
"This year, however, there are a number of different elements which are contributing to the overall energy cost.
"These include carbon costs, which electricity generators must pay as part of EU climate change policy.
"These costs have risen and unfortunately offset, in part, the downward movement in global gas prices."
However, the Consumer Council has expressed disappointment at the tariff increase, which it said has occurred despite a decrease in wholesale energy prices over the past year.
Paulino Garcia, head of energy policy at the organisation, said it is important that consumers in Northern Ireland see the benefits from the fall in wholesale gas prices over the past year.
He said: "This is especially relevant as the Office of National Statistics Family Spending Survey shows that households in Northern Ireland spend £68, or 11.50%, more per year on electricity than the UK average."
He added that electricity customers could save up to £92 on their annual bill if they switch supplier, and said the organisation has a free, independent, online energy price comparison tool providing an easy way to compare prices.