Firm to cut gas prices but no change from SSE – BBC News

  • by Clodagh Rice
  • BBC News NI business correspondent

image Source, Getty Images

Firmus Energy has announced that its gas price will fall by almost a fifth from April in what would be its second reduction this year.

The move reflects a fall in wholesale gas prices, which have been falling since late last year and are now around £1.10 per thermo.

Firmus Energy is one of two gas suppliers in Northern Ireland.

Others – SSE Airtricity – will not reduce its price in April, the utility regulator has confirmed.

Firmus Energy has around 110,000 customers across Northern Ireland and cut its prices by almost a fifth in January.

Customers in the Ten Towns network area, which includes Antrim, Armagh, Ballymena, Coleraine, Craigavon, Londonderry and Newry, will see prices drop by 18.84%.

In Greater Belfast, which includes Lisburn, Bangor, Larne, Comber, Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus, prices will drop by 22.43% from April.

According to Firmus Energy, this will save Ten Towns customers an average of £335 a year and Greater Belfast customers an average of £433 a year.

Its chief executive, Niall Martindale, said: “We previously committed to our customers that as soon as market conditions allowed us to reduce our prices, we would do so.

“We recognize the widespread cost of living within the communities we serve and at Firmus, we are working hard to drive positive change for our 110,000 loyal and valued customers.”

The reduction in Firmus Energy’s prices is the result of a review carried out in January by the company and the utility regulator, which regulates the industry in Northern Ireland.

Will SSE Airtricity reduce the price of gas?

There will be no change in the price of gas from SSE Airtricity in April, the utility regulator has concluded after reviewing the company’s tariff.

SSE Airtricity has 186,000 customers in Northern Ireland.

Kevin Shiels, chief executive of the utility regulator, said SSE Airtricity’s review found there was no need to drop prices at present.

“While the review showed that the fall in wholesale gas prices eased pressure on tariffs, this was offset by increases in other costs, such as the rising cost of gas delivery,” he said.

“We will continue to monitor SSE Airtricity’s regulated gas tariffs and ensure that any reduction in cost is passed on to customers as quickly as possible.”

What else could affect gas prices?

The ultimate impact of those announcements on customers’ bills will be determined by what the UK government does with respect to its Energy Price Guarantee.

The government is subsidizing energy bills through the Energy Price Guarantee, reducing the amount of 3.893p/kwh for each unit of gas charged to the public until the end of March.

The BBC understands Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to extend the energy price guarantee for a further three months.

An announcement on this is expected to be made in the Chancellor’s Budget on 15 March.

Mr Shales of the utility regulator said any changes to the level of support provided through the energy price guarantee scheme would “affect the final tariff customers pay”.

“If the Energy Price Guarantee Discount changes, Firmus Energy will adjust its tariffs accordingly and advise its customers,” he added.

The Consumers Council for Northern Ireland warned that if the government slashes support in the energy price guarantee scheme it would mean bills for Firms Energy customers would not fall as much as announced on Tuesday.

Raymond Gormley of the Consumer Council said he expected the government to reduce the amount of aid it provides.

He said gas bills were higher than last year and advised anyone struggling to contact their supplier for help.

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