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Firmus Energy to increase gas prices by a further 33.5 per cent on Ten Towns network

Firmus Energy will increase its Ten Towns gas tariff by 33.57.per cent on February 24, bringing the average annual bill to £1,293.

AROUND 59,000 households in the north will see their annual gas bills rise by another £325 this month as tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border continue to heap pressure on the volatile global gas market.

Supplier Firmus Energy said prices on its Ten Towns network will jump by another 33.57 per cent from February 24 in response to huge price spikes affecting the wholesale market.

It will take the average annual household gas bill for customers on the network - which stretches from Derry to Newry - to around £1293, almost three times what they paid 12 months ago (£440).

It’s the third time Firmus has hiked its prices for Ten Towns customers since October. Tariffs increased by 35 per cent on October 1 and again by 38 per cent on December 3.

SSE Airtricity, which operates on the Greater Belfast and western networks, has yet to respond to the wholesale price crisis in the same way.

It last increased its domestic tariff by 21.8 per cent on October 1 2021, leaving its average household customer paying around £626 per year.

A much larger company, considered to have deeper cash reserves, SSE is however expected to soon react to the latest price spikes.

Home heating oil customers, which account for around 60 per cent of households in Northern Ireland, are also facing huge increases in their bills this year.

The price of home heating oil is as its highest since around 2013. Based on the Consumer Council’s analysis of the oil market, the average family of four face paying around £1,500 to £1,600 on heating in 2022.

Chief executive of the Utility Regulator, John French, last week warned that gas suppliers would need to put prices up by at least 30 per cent.

He said the price of wholesale gas, which accounts for around half of what customers pay to suppliers, had risen significantly since Firmus Energy’s last tariff increase on December 3.

“The unparalleled increases in the cost of wholesale energy at a global level have persisted and continue to impact on supplier costs.

“This has been exacerbated by the overall volatility within the market, with significant price movements occurring on a daily basis,” said Mr French.

“Unfortunately there appears to be no end in sight during 2022 for significantly above trend wholesale prices.

“However, if wholesale prices begin to reduce, our system of regulation in Northern Ireland allows us to act to make sure that reductions are fully passed onto consumers as quickly as possible.”

Firmus Energy’s chairman David Dobbin said: “Unfortunately, due to the sustained high prices in wholesale gas markets we have had no option but to make a further increase in our gas tariff.”

“Very low gas stocks; reduced Russian supplies and concerns about the Ukraine situation are all combining to keep European gas prices high.”

The Ten Towns Network area includes Antrim, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Coleraine, Craigavon (including Lurgan and Portadown), Limavady, Derry, Newry, and more than 25 other towns and villages in the surrounding areas.

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