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Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Concerns raised over Power NI price surge

Householders are being urged to take control of their energy bills in preparation for the biggest price hike in energy bills since 2013, after the north’s main electricity supplier, Power NI announced a 14% surge in electricity prices.

The increase, which will come into effect on October 1st, will hit over half a million households across the north, with Power NI supplying more than 58% of homes here. The price hike, the firm’s biggest in five years, follows a 5.6% increase in 2017, and is expected to add £68 to annual bills. 

PowerNI blamed “increases in wholesale electricity costs” for the rise of around £1.33 a week to the average bill and said putting prices up “is the last thing we want to do” 

Stephen Cully, PowerNI Managing Director said the company was “at the mercy of fluctuating world fuel prices” and had worked through a rigorous process with the Utility Regulator.

“Customers can be sure that although unwelcome, this increase is as low as possible and our prices are still cheaper than they were five years ago,” said Mr Cully.

The second successive year of price hikes by the energy supplier has caused widespread concern, with Sinn Fein’s Energy, Environment and Climate spokesperson, Cathal Boylan, branding it “deeply disappointing and concerning”. 

“This surge will see an annual bill increase of £68 per year for Power NI customers, on top of a 5.6 percent increase in 2017, ultimately placing increased pressure on many people who are already struggling to pay their bills,” said the Sinn Fein MLA.

“PowerNI has stated that the increase is due to rising gas and oil prices which have made electricity supply more costly.

“While Sinn Féin acknowledges the rising costs of energy production, we feel these issues could be partially mitigated if PowerNI took more steps to diversify its electricity supply.

Mr Boylan encouraged householders to read his party’s recently launched ‘Powering Ireland 2030’ document, which advocates for electricity suppliers to move towards using renewable energy to generate electricity.

John French, Chief Executive of The Consumer Council, said a typical household using Power NI will see their annual electricity cost rise from £497 per year to £565 per year.

“Our analysis shows that this increase broadly reflects the increases we have seen on the wholesale energy markets,” said Mr French before highlighting “that households can still make significant savings within the electricity market in Northern Ireland by annually shopping around for the best deal.”

Utility Regulator chief executive Jenny Pyper said that after the increase the average Power NI bill will be about “15% lower than the GB average and around 29% cheaper than the Republic of Ireland average standard tariff”.

“It will also see prices back to slightly lower than where they were in 2013,” she added.