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Electricity bills shocker for 260,000 customers in Northern Ireland

Both SSE Airtricity and Budget Energy announced increases in bills yesterday affecting more than 250,000 customers in Northern Ireland
Gary McDonald Business Editor

SSE Airtricity is the first major utilities company to move on a price increase since the regulator warned customers earlier this month to prepare for "the worst price shocks since the 1970s".

The north's second largest power supplier announced another 9 per cent increase for its 170,000 customers, kicking in on December 1, and meaning a typical customer will pay £1.12 more each week.

It's the third increase by SSE this year, following hikes of 3.9 per cent in March (adding 43p a week to bills) and 9.7 per cent in August (£1.11 a week).

And at the same time, its rival Budget Energy, which has 96,000 customers in Northern Ireland, said it was increasing bills by a whopping 29 per cent, which will lump another £4.72 a week on to their users' bills from November 26.

“We've made every effort to delay this as long as we could, but unfortunately, as we've seen with other suppliers, sustained increases in wholesale energy costs are driving consumer prices upward and continue to disrupt energy markets across the UK and Europe,” SSE Airtricity managing director Klair Neenan said.

“Decisions like this are not taken lightly and are never welcome news, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely with a commitment to reducing our prices as soon as it is possible to do so.”

Budget Energy's general manager Paul Kenny said: “We very much regret this, but it is unavoidable due to the unprecedented level of global cost increases. We have worked hard to minimise the level of increase.”

The north's utility regulator John French warned recently that soaring wholesale gas costs mean domestic gas bills will increase by another 50 per cent, or £300, this winter, with electricity bills set to rise 20 per cent.

Energy firms can legally trigger a price increase if their wholesale costs increase by more than five per cent, so it is highly likely that other utilities will follow the SSE and Budget Energy lead in the coming days or weeks.

It adds to further household costs, with heating oil (used by two-thirds of homes in the north) at a three-year high after doubling in a year, and with road fuel having hit an all-time high earlier this week.

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