“How am I going to be able to heat my house? ‘: Dark days loom for gas customers in Northern Ireland | UK News
There is a warning that “there are dark days ahead” in Northern Ireland, with energy bills set to rise sharply this winter.
In some areas, gas prices will rise up to 35% from tomorrow, prompting warnings that people will simply go offline.
The two companies that provide housing in Northern Ireland have raised prices for their customers in response to soaring global gas prices.
The increase coincides with the end of holidays and the end of the £ 20-per-week increase in universal credit, as charities warning families face ‘the perfect storm’.
According to National Energy Action Northern Ireland, around a quarter of households depend on gas, the majority using pay-per-view meters.
Among them is Victoria McClements, 40, a mother of two who works at a special school in Belfast.
“I’m scared, scared of how I’m going to be able to heat my house,” she told Sky News.
Her youngest daughter, Emily, is six years old.
“Her bedroom would be the coldest room in our house,” Victoria said. “She goes to bed with hot water bottles and woolen blankets.
“There are times when I have done without food to heat the house. The children are fed … I can go without dinner.”
Even before the price went up, they had times when the money in the meter ran out.
“It happened a couple of times when she was about to take a shower and it was gone and I had no money,” Victoria said.
“You can’t shower your kids, you can’t wash your dishes, because your gas is your main source of heat and hot water.”
The price increases were announced earlier this month with Firmus Energy due to charge customers 35.15% more from October 1 in its network of ten cities.
The region includes Antrim, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Coleraine, Craigavon (including Lurgan and Portadown), Limavady, Derry / Londonderry, Newry and over 25 other towns and villages.
SSE Airtricity, the other domestic gas supplier, has announced that its prices will increase by 21.8% from tomorrow.
There is no price cap on energy in Northern Ireland. Instead, price increases are scrutinized by a regulator.
Commenting on the announcements, utilities regulator chief executive John French blamed an “unprecedented increase in the wholesale cost of gas, coal, oil and carbon in international markets.”
He added: “This unfortunately has an impact on consumer bills, as about half of a final gas bill is made up of wholesale gas prices.”
Pat Austin, director of National Energy Action Northern Ireland, told Sky News that some people were concerned that some people would be forced to shut off their gas altogether.
Figures released by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive showed that in 2016 some 22% of people in Northern Ireland were living in fuel poverty. She believes the current figure could already be 10% higher, even before the price hike.
“People can go offline very quickly,” she said.
“It’s the perfect storm: the end of holidays, the end of the rise in universal credit and these dizzying increases in gas and oil prices, where we have 68% of households dependent on heating oil.
“There are dark days ahead and we need urgent government intervention to help low income households.”
Stores where people can top up cards for their gas meters have seen an increase in the number of people eager to buy whatever they can before the price goes up.
“There have just been a lot of customers who have come in, filling up with gasoline because they are panicking over the increase, and a lot of them just through COVID, they just don’t have much. money per minute, “said Lynsey Scott, who works at a store in South Belfast.
Among his clients is Lorraine Pollins, 64 years old. Since her husband had to give up his job to seek treatment for cancer, they have struggled to cope with the salary at the retirement home where she works as a cleaner.
“Every penny you earn is only for food and bills,” she said. “You have nothing left.”
“You are really doing from month to month. “
They are already rationing their heating.
“We’re just going to leave it out during the day and put it overnight because you couldn’t afford to burn it during the day.
The two gas companies have recognized the impact that the price increase will have on their customers.
Michael Scott, Managing Director of Firmus energy, said: “We are so sorry to have to make this announcement because the last thing we want is to have to increase our prices. However, given the massive increases in the cost of purchasing natural gas in global markets, this is simply inevitable, as these costs are completely beyond our control. “
Andrew Greer, Managing Director of SSE Airtricity (NI) said: “We are aware of the impact this increase will have on our customers and this decision was not taken lightly.
“SSE Airtricity has a long history of working with our customers and, as we have done in the past, we will seek to lower our prices as soon as possible.”