150,000 customers facing higher gas bills as Airtricity raises prices 7.8%
More than 150,000 gas customers in Northern Ireland will see a major hike in their bills after SSE Airtricity increased its prices.
The increase will affect Airtricity customers in Belfast and new domestic customers in Strabane.
The natural gas provider announced a 7.8% increase in its regulated natural gas prices effective from April 1 for its home and small business customers.
It will see a typical household annual gas bill rise by £39.
The company said that the change in gas prices was as a result of a rise in external costs, which include increases to charges for using gas networks.
Richard Williams, head of energy at the Consumer Council, said: "While unwelcome news, we know that the SSE Airtricity domestic gas price is regulated and the component parts of the price are analysed by the Utility Regulator.
"Therefore, consumers are paying a price that reflects the increased cost of supplying gas.
"Consumers need to consider all the ways that they can save on their energy bills, including shopping around and becoming more energy-efficient.
"Now is a good time for consumers to take control of all their energy bills and review all their energy costs, including electricity.
"The Consumer Council's free online Energy Price Comparison Tool lets consumers compare gas and electricity tariffs currently available with all suppliers. Switching payment, changing billing method or implementing simple energy efficiency measures can also help save money."
Andrew Greer, general manager of SSE Airtricity Gas, apologised for the increase.
He said: "This decision is not taken lightly and is driven by rising external costs outside of our control, including cost increases for transporting gas to customers via the networks and continued increases in the global wholesale cost of natural gas.
"We've worked hard to help reduce the impact of these external costs, and our customers can be assured that this change has been examined and approved by the Utility Regulator.
"As always, we will continue to do everything to ensure we consistently deliver value to our customers in their gas supply, and to provide the greatest possible help and outstanding service that our customers expect from us."
The price changes to SSE Airtricity home and small business customers will affect around 75% of the natural gas market in greater Belfast.
The change also applies to customers on the Gas to the West network currently being developed.
The announcement follows the annual review by SSE Airtricity of costs associated with its regulated natural gas supply business.
Average annual increase in bills for SSE Airtricity home and small business customers from April 1