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Public ‘must look for deals’ as energy prices soar again

Advice comes after SSE Airtricity plans to raise prices by 33% and Budget Energy by 27%


Klair Neenan, managing director of SSE Airtricity

Klair Neenan, managing director of SSE Airtricity

Klair Neenan, managing director of SSE Airtricity

There are still deals and discounts to be had by households here who have been hit by the latest electricity price hikes.

That’s the advice from Aodhan O’Donnell, founder of Power to Switch, the energy comparison website here.

He said while those savings won’t cancel out yesterday’s announced price rises, all is not lost.

His advice comes as SSE Airtricity, NI’s second largest electricity supplier, and Budget Energy, NI’s fourth largest electricity supplier, said they will raise their prices by 33% and 27% respectively. The rises will impact residential energy bills.

SSE’s rise will come into effect on June 1, while Budget Energy will up its prices from May 27.

“That’s the first increase for both companies this year,” Mr O’ Donnell said, adding it represents a jump of £330 in two years for SSE and £730 for Budget Energy over the same period.

“It’s important for customers to look at discounted tariffs now,” he said.

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“Look around. If you can move contracts, do it. If you’ve just come off a deal, this is the time to move or renegotiate with your current provider.”

He said better deals are available for those who set up direct debits with energy providers and said knowing what you’re paying and where you are in your contract will be key to savings.

“There are definitely suppliers out there offering deals, but it all depends on who your current supplier is. You may also be able to get a better deal with your current supplier so keep an eye on what you’re paying and if you are able to renegotiate or switch.”

SSE Airtricty said it would continue to offer its customers discounts by “opting to go paperless with direct debit and e-billing”.

Klair Neenan, managing director of SSE Airtricity, said the company would “expand” its efforts to support those hit hardest.

She said: “SSE Airtricity has a longstanding and continued commitment to working with and supporting customers in need.

“Last year, we began contacting customers who were experiencing financial pressure to provide support, including financial assistance, and establish a long-term plan to help them manage their energy needs.

“We are expanding those supports and will continue to support and engage with any customer who is finding it difficult to manage their energy costs.”

Mr O’Donnell expects other energy suppliers to also inflate their prices but says being vigilant about your own bill is key to getting a better rate.

“We saw so many rises last year so it wouldn’t be a surprise if other suppliers change prices too under pressure.

“Right now, we’re in a very volatile market. There is a lot happening. Before we would have advised customers to look at their bills every year, now we’re telling them to look at what they’re paying every few months or every quarter.

“These are the biggest rises I have ever experienced and if you look back a few years, we would’ve been shouting from the roof tops if prices went up by two or three percent.”

The Consumer Council has said anyone struggling to pay bills should contact their supplier as soon as possible.

It’s director of infrastructure, Peter McClenaghan, said: “There are measures that can be put in place to help you.

“Unfortunately, prices are set to stay high for the foreseeable future so the Consumer Council will continue to push for significantly improved initiatives to help consumers who are experiencing payment difficulties.”

John French, who was appointed to the lead role at the Utility Regulator in late 2020, says half the population here is estimated to be in fuel poverty.

The Utility Regulator is responsible for looking after the interests of consumers by regulating Northern Ireland’s electricity, gas, water and sewerage industries.

But in an interview earlier this month, Mr French said its impact is now limited.

Some factors, such as milder weather, a settlement in Ukraine or the release of more gas from territories like Qatar or the US, could help.

“But current market sentiment is that we’re in this for three years and some people are even saying it could be five years of high prices,” he said.

He added: “We set a profit margin of 2% for the companies but intrinsically if the costs of the inputs into that in the wholesale market are really high, it doesn’t really matter how efficiently you run the market.

“The cost to the consumer is going to increase.

“We haven’t got the powers to reduce the price or cap the price.

“That’s something that would have to be undertaken at a UK government level.”

He said someone must pay for market costs, and right now, that’s the consumer.

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