Page last updated at 11:11 GMT, Wednesday, 28 May 2008 12:11 UK

33% rise on cards for electricity

Customers face a rise in electricity prices
Customers face a rise in electricity prices

Electricity prices in Northern Ireland are expected to rise by up to 33% this autumn.

Bills will go up by 14% from the beginning of July but the BBC understands a further price increase of at least 15% is on the cards.

The increase has been blamed on rising wholesale fuel prices. NIE Energy said coal, gas and oil prices had risen by 85% since its last price review.

The Consumer Council has called for aid to help poorer families.

The vast majority of Northern Ireland's electricity is generated from coal and oil and prices on world markets are continuing to increase.

Figures calculated by the BBC indicate that consumers in Northern Ireland may be paying 33% more for electricity in the autumn compared with the same time in 2007.

NIE Energy said further "significant" price increases were likely this autumn.

The Consumer Council has estimated that the Treasury has had a windfall of more than 10m on VAT levied on fuel.

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It has now asked government to earmark those funds for an emergency financial package to help fuel-poor households this winter. These are household that spend more than 10% of their income on fuel - it is estimated that one third of Northern Ireland homes fall into this bracket.

NIE Energy supplies 738,000 domestic and 48,000 business customers.

"We had hoped to hold our prices until later in the year, but wholesale gas, oil and coal prices have increased substantially in recent months," an NIE Energy spokeswoman said.

"This increase is in line with recent GB energy supply companies' pricing announcements, and both the utility regulator and the Consumer Council have been closely consulted.

"Over 453,000 of our customers get a discount on their electricity supply, and I would encourage more of our customers to take advantage of one of our discount schemes."


Eleanor Gill from the Consumer Council speaking to BBC Newsline's Karen Patterson

Eleanor Gill, of the Consumer Council, said: "The sheer scale of these energy price increases should trigger an emergency financial package to help alleviate hardship in fuel poor households this winter.

"All possible ways of paying for this emergency fund must be urgently explored."

She added: "Consumers should make sure that they are receiving all payments they are entitled to, budget carefully and save money where they can and be as energy efficient as is healthily possible."

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