Opinion: Energy in NI - Keeping lights on during unprecedented times
It is by no means a secret that households are facing higher energy bills this winter and tariffs could rise again. It’s one of the hottest topics for discussion and not something energy companies can shy away from – on the contrary, consumers need to know the landscape.
In Northern Ireland there are six energy suppliers you can choose from to provide electricity to your home and none of them have been able to avoid increasing their prices this year.
Consumers understandably are asking why is this happening now of all times? Hand on heart, energy suppliers just don’t have an option in the current economic climate.
And, it’s not just a local problem as global economies begin to unlock from the coronavirus pandemic.
The wholesale energy market is experiencing unprecedented volatility with prices at all-time record highs for extended periods of time. This unparalleled environment means that energy suppliers have to make difficult decisions which unfortunately negatively impact consumers.
Energy firms buy gas and electricity wholesale and with higher demand and limited supply, costs have shot up, putting the pressure on suppliers. Wholesale prices for gas have surged 250% since January with a 70% rise since August alone, according to industry group Oil & Gas UK. The causes are global – European gas stocks are down, supplies from Russia have declined and there is strong demand for liquefied natural gas from Asia.
Click Energy is operating in one of Northern Ireland’s most competitive markets and we continually review our products to find the best electricity tariffs that meet consumer needs and lifestyles. As a regulated industry, all price increases must also be approved by the Utility Regulator (UR). The UR is responsible for regulating the electricity, gas, water and sewerage industries in Northern Ireland, promoting the short and long-term interests of consumers.
We regret that higher energy costs will make household budgeting more of a challenge this winter, especially for those consumers who are already experiencing financial pressures exacerbated by the pandemic. As one of the smallest local electricity suppliers, Click Energy are here to help and any customers who are struggling to pay their electricity bill should contact us without delay to discuss their available options with our customer service advisers who will be happy to assist.
Appropriate support is also in place to assist consumers as part of our regulatory responsibilities, particularly during the anticipated difficult winter months ahead.
While no-one can accurately predict the future including how the current crisis affecting the energy markets will pan out, there is no denying the fact that we may have to ride out this storm before entering calmer waters ahead. That well-worn phrase from the pandemic, “We are in this together”, has a certain resonance and I will ensure Click Energy are doing all we can to support our customers during these difficult months ahead.
Damian Wilson is MD of Click Energy.