firmus energy customers in Lurgan and Craigavon can expect to see their gas prices rise by over 35% from October.
The company has laid the blame at the feet of “substantial rises in global wholesale gas prices”.
Those living in the Ten Towns network - Antrim, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Coleraine, Craigavon (including Lurgan and Portadown), Limavady, Derry/Londonderry, Newry, and more than 25 other towns and villages in the surrounding areas – will see their natural gas tariffs increase by 35.15% from October 1.
The change in tariff will mean an extra £3.33 per week on to the average household bill, bringing prices back to 2018/2019 levels.
firmus say that since the start of April 2021, global gas commodity prices have increased by 170%. Throughout 2019 and 2020 firmus energy was able to cut its prices, totalling 37%, leading to historic low tariffs.
Michael Scott, Managing Director of firmus energy, said: “We are very sorry to have to make this announcement as the last thing we want is to have to increase our prices.
“However, given the massive increases in the cost of purchasing natural gas on the global markets, it is simply unavoidable, as these costs are totally beyond our control.
“With the world starting to reopen again, following the Covid-19 restrictions, this is leading to increased demand for natural gas and that has been driving the prices up at alarming rates. As normality returns, we expect prices to begin to stabilise again.
“Any increase is never welcome, and we know this will come at a particularly difficult time for many. Although we understand that gas prices across the UK and Ireland are likely to increase due to the global fluctuations, we appreciate this will be of little comfort to our customers.
“We want to assure our customers that we will continue to monitor and review our tariffs to ensure customers are getting the best prices possible. As soon as we can lower our prices again, we will do so without delay.
“We are fully committed to working with consumer bodies to best support our customers, especially in the forthcoming winter months.”
firmus energy is a regulated business and the Utility Regulator has scrutinised firmus energy’s actual costs to supply gas to homes and businesses in the Ten Towns Network area. This announcement follows the ongoing tariff review process that is carried out by firmus energy and the Utility Regulator, in consultation with the Department for the Economy and the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.
Commenting on the announcement, John French, Utility Regulator Chief Executive said: “This announcement unfortunately reflects the unprecedented increases in international wholesale energy markets. Wholesale gas prices continue to break record levels. Currently, the cost of wholesale gas has risen by 170% since the start of April 2021.
“While we have no power to compel a company to sell energy for less than it costs, we have fully scrutinised Firmus Energy’s submission. This has been carried out in consultation with the Department for the Economy and the Consumer Council, and ensures that the company’s submission accurately reflects the costs they have incurred.
“To try and reduce the impact of this increase, we brought forward our review of their network tariffs which has enabled a 4.5% or a £20 reduction in Firmus Energy’s original application. The final agreed increase therefore will be 35.15% or £183 per year for the average household.
“As a result of this increase, the average domestic gas bill in the Ten Towns area will rise to £701 per year. For comparison, an annual average household gas bill in GB is £625 per year and £782 per year in the Republic of Ireland.
“The average annual domestic gas bill in the Ten Towns licence area fell during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, due to the increases in wholesale energy costs, the average bill has risen back to prices previously seen in 2018.
“The rise in the cost of natural gas reflects similar movements that have been seen in other heating fuels, such as home heating oil.
“Whilst no-one has any control over the factors that affect international wholesale gas markets, I recognise that this price increase will be extremely difficult for many people. The Utility Regulator, in partnership with government and other organisations such as the Consumer Council, will continue to do everything we can to support and protect consumers, especially the most vulnerable, this winter.
“Recently, I wrote to all energy suppliers in Northern Ireland to remind them of their regulatory obligations in regards of consumers struggling with their bills. Therefore, I would encourage anyone who is worried about how they will afford their energy bill, to contact their supplier immediately and access the help and support that is freely available.”
Customers seeking advice on their natural gas bills or direct debit payments should contact the firmus energy Customer Services team on 0330 024 9000. Our telephone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Further information on the support available to energy customers is available at www.nidirect.gov.uk/covid-19-energy-debt-advice and within the consumer protection section of the Utility Regulator’s website www.uregni.gov.uk. The Consumer Council’s website has energy advice for consumers during these difficult times and also provides an independent energy price comparison tool to help consumers save money.
For free and independent advice on how to save energy please contact NI Energy Advice Line on 0800 111 4455.