08 Dec 2021

Foyle MLA: "Hikes in energy costs will hit hardest those least able to afford it"

Foyle MLA: "Hikes in energy costs will hit hardest those least able to afford it"

Gas bills across the north of Ireland are set to rise by 50 per cent in December

Sinn Féin's Ciara Ferguson has said huge increases in energy prices will hit hardest on those already least able to afford it.

The Foyle MLA was commenting after the Utility Regulator warned that gas bills could increase by further 50 per cent in December, with electricity prices set to increase by up to 20 per cent in January.

Utility regulator John French said “unprecedented” increases in international wholesale prices were to blame.

He said: “Unfortunately, there has been a rapid and sustained acceleration of wholesale gas prices.

“When we agreed to firmus energy and SSE Airtricity Gas Supply's new regulated tariff at the end of August, the wholesale cost of natural gas was £1.15 per therm (a unit of heat) – a then record high.

“However, with continuing supply constraints, mainly from reduced gas supplies from Russia, wholesale prices peaked at a new record high of nearly £4.10 per therm in early October.

“In the last week, the wholesale price has reduced slightly to around £2.40 per therm, but this is still a 109 per cent increase from the end of August.”

However, Ms Ferguson said that the price hikes will hurt the most vulnerable in society and called upon the Conservative Government in Westminster to make funding available to help those in need.

She said: “News that energy prices are set to increase again is another huge blow for already hard-pressed families.

“Many families, workers and pensioners here are still reeling from the British government’s attack on their livelihoods by increasing national Insurance contributions, ditching pension protections and cutting Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit.

“These hikes in energy costs will hit hardest on those already least able to afford it.

“It’s particularly concerning that this latest hike comes at the beginning of winter when the demand for fuel will increase significantly.

“The British government must recognise the scale of the cost-of-living crisis and make additional funding available to support workers and families, and to help businesses and protect jobs.”

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