Northern Ireland's energy suppliers expected to begin announcing price cuts

Ofgem's price cap does not apply in the north, but energy suppliers are expected to begin announcing tariff cuts in the coming weeks.
Ofgem's price cap does not apply in the north, but energy suppliers are expected to begin announcing tariff cuts in the coming weeks.

ENERGY suppliers in the north could begin announcing cuts to gas and electricity tariffs within days.

The Utility Regulator for Northern Ireland has commenced a review of Power NI’s electricity tariff and SSE Airtricity’s gas tariff in Greater Belfast in response to the recent falls in wholesale energy prices.

The outcome is expected to result in a cut to both energy tariffs, which will likely trigger announcements by the unregulated suppliers.

It comes as Ofgem confirmed the energy price cap in England, Scotland and Wales will be cut from £3,280 per year to £2,074 from July 1.

The Ofgem price cap does not apply in Northern Ireland, where a separate system exists.

Instead, the electricity and gas markets here are overseen by the Utility Regulator. Power NI is the only regulated domestic electricity provider. SSE Airtricity’s gas tariff on the Greater Belfast network and the Firmus Energy tariff on the Ten Towns network, are also regulated.

The Ten Towns tariff is not currently under review. The Utility Regulator said Firmus cut its prices in January and April, but said a further review could soon be triggered, which could result in a tariff change from October.

The changes to the GB price cap come as the UK Government’s energy support for households comes to an end at the end of June.

The Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) scheme applies an automatic discount for both electricity and gas tariffs here. Since April 1, electricity suppliers have automatically applied a 3.77p discount for every unit used, while gas tariffs are being discounted by 2.6p per unit.

When originally introduced last winter, the EPG scheme cut electricity prices by around 20p per kilowatt hour (kWh), protecting households from the severe shock spike in energy prices.

The scheme has been gradually phased down since then.

Explaining the difference between the system in Britain and Northern Ireland, Peter McClenaghan from the Consumer Council, said: “Instead of a price cap we have a tariff review process.

“This requires the largest supplier in each network area to show the Utility Regulator, the Consumer Council, and the Department for the Economy that they are setting fair prices based on the price of wholesale energy.

“This tariff then acts as a price to beat for other suppliers.

“The Northern Ireland regime has distinct benefits which include clarity for consumers as to the profit margin suppliers are permitted; 2 per cent for regulated gas suppliers and 2.2 per cent for Power NI.

“It has also meant that prices have been lower in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain for much of the last year.”

Mr McClenaghan said the changes to the Power NI and SSE Airtricity gas tariffs are expected to be announced in the next few weeks. However, the Utility Regulator expects to conclude the review this week, meaning an announcement could come sooner.

“After the price announcements are made we encourage consumers to visit our free online energy price comparison tool to check that they are on the best tariff for their needs,” he added.

“The Consumer Council is engaging with government and stakeholders about help for Northern Ireland consumers next winter because we know prices will remain higher than average and many consumers are struggling to pay their bills.”