Consumers Need Evidence That Northern Ireland Electricity Prices Are Fair

Following a series of significant increases in energy prices and within the context of Northern Ireland having the highest levels of fuel poverty in the UK (double that in Great Britain), the Consumer Council is urging the Executive and the Regulator to re-examine the McIldoon Report and ensure that energy policy and regulatory frameworks provide consumers with the best possible deal.

Antoinette McKeown, Consumer Council chief executive explains: “In light of recent energy price rises, the Consumer Council has reviewed Douglas McIldoon’s 2008 report and we agree with his continuing conclusion that energy policy in Northern Ireland remains confused and contradictory today. Our concern is that consumers could be paying less for their electricity but the Consumer Council cannot act alone to achieve that. At the very least we believe there should be debate around how electricity prices could be lowered; this report is our contribution to that debate.”

Northern Ireland currently has the highest energy bills in the United Kingdom and recent statistics from Westminster show that the highest average annual energy bill in Great Britain is around £1,000 cheaper than the average annual combined oil and electricity bill in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, in Northern Ireland 44 per cent of households are in fuel poverty compared to 13 per cent in Great Britain.

In conjunction with launching its report ‘Consumer Council Analysis of the McIldoon Report – Orphans in the Energy Storm’, the Consumer Council is putting a number of questions to the NI Executive and the NI Utility Regulator including:

* Why does the price of electricity produced by wind generators rise when the price of gas rises?

* Why does the most expensive electricity generator set the price that is paid to all generators on the Island of Ireland?

* Why are some generators making profit margins of between 20 and 50 per cent when NI’s top 100 companies are seeing margins between 1 and 6 per cent?

* Why are wind generators paid for being on standby when the wind is not blowing?

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