CONSUMERS in Northern Ireland, who are set to enjoy lower energy prices this summer compared to the rest of the UK, may be in for a shock when Autumn arrives.
Instability in the global market for gas and electricity will have a knock on effect for residents across the North of Ireland, with Northern Ireland Electricity set to review prices this autumn.
SAUL SDLP Councillor Peter Craig has also expressed concern over the predicted rise in costs and has called on the utility regulator to intervene and ensure all is in order.
He said, “Fuel poverty is rife right across the North of Ireland. Thousands of people, particularly pensioners, are afraid to turn on their heat due to the spiraling costs. This is evidently very dangerous.
“And for these same individuals to learn that come Autumn the prices are yet again on the up – many I am sure fear for their future.
“These companies are clearly making big money. In times of recession, it shouldn’t just be the customer who’s feeling the brunt,” he added.
Electricity and gas prices are closely linked. Electricity power stations utilize natural energy resources to generate electricity for consumers. Phoenix gas increased its prices by 39% in May in light of increasing wholesale fuel costs. With this taken into consideration, fears have now arisen that residents will soon have to pay higher electricity prices as well. Concerns surrounding additional expense for the average consumer has been further stressed given that fuel poverty became a serious issue last winter during the big freeze with 40% of people in Northern Ireland actually in fuel poverty.
Nigel Brady, Director of Bryson Energy, explained fuel poverty as a situation when, in order to maintain an acceptable level of temperature throughout the home, the occupants would have to spend more than 10% of their income on all household fuel use.
He warned that, “Come the Autumn any increase in electricity prices will only bring further financial hardship for NI households.
“While any electricity price rises will be scrutinised by the Utility Regulator, Northern Ireland is at the mercy of world fuel prices and householders will need to ensure they are using all fuels as efficiently as possible, using appropriate payment mechanisms and getting the best deals with regard to price.
“The recent substantial price rises for gas customers in Northern Ireland has been a major cause of concern. These increases have resulted in further households going into fuel poverty meaning 44% of people in Northern Ireland cannot afford to heat their homes.
“Combined with reducing welfare benefits, job redundancies and the recent rise in food costs, the increasing cost of energy is forcing households into making difficult choices between heating and eating.”
He added, “Bryson Energy believes the Northern Ireland Government will need to look closely at Energy Brokering (bulk buying of energy), Social Tariffs (discounted energy prices), and increased energy efficiency measures such as expansion to the Warm Homes Scheme to protect our most vulnerable households from the effects of fuel poverty.”