Households hit again as firmus imposes whopping 12.2 per cent gas price rise

ANOTHER 80,000 domestic and small business customers across Northern Ireland will see their gas bills spiral from the end of this month as Firmus energy confirmed a whopping 12.2 per cent rise in its tariff.

The increase will slap more than £60 a year on the average bill, or roughly £1.18 for a typical household.

Firmus - which last year announced a 7.7 per cent price cut and in 2015 brought prices down by 5 per cent - blamed the hike on rising wholesale natural gas commodity prices.

The announcement comes just days after SSE Airtricity has announced a 7.6 per cent gas price increase from March 31.

The increase will impact on around 30,000 firmus customers in the regulated area known as ‘Ten Towns’ which includes Antrim, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Coleraine, Craigavon, Derry, Limavady and Newry, as well as surrounding villages.

Another 50,000 customers will be hit with bigger bills in the likes of Belfast, Lisburn, Bangor, Holywood, Donaghadee, Groomsport, Millisle, Newtownards, Carryduff, Comber, Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus and Larne.

Firmus managing director Michael Scott said: “We understand the importance of price stability for customers and apologise for having to increase prices.

“We appreciate that this is not good news for customers, but the tariff change is driven by the rising wholesale natural gas commodity market.

“But over the past three years we have been able to reduce or maintain our prices," he added.

Kevin Shiels from the Utility Regulator’s office confirmed that it had "thoroughly scrutinised" firmus energy’s costs to supply gas to homes and businesses in the Ten Towns area and accepted that the main reason for the tariff change is the increase in international wholesale energy costs.

He said: “Whilst this 12.2 per cent increase comes as we enter the spring, we recognise the impact it will have on customer budgets.

“But the increase will still leave the firmus domestic tariff lower than the average standard tariff in the Republic of Ireland and in line with the average standard gas tariffs in Great Britain."

There was better news for customers though when the north's largest energy supplier Power NI - which supplies around half a million customers - confirmed that it won't be imposing an immediate price increase.

Spokesperson Kerstie Forsyth told the Irish News: “Power NI will not be changing prices in April, and as our prices are agreed with the Utility regulator, customers can be confident that they will always pay a fair price. We will keep prices under constant review.

“We, to the extent we can, protect customers against high and volatile wholesale costs by hedging or buying ahead. This strategy means that we do not have any plans to change tariffs this spring.”

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