Thursday, September 29, 2022

By David Young and Rebecca Black, PA

Liz Truss has insisted that people in Northern Ireland will not lose out on energy support being offered to consumers elsewhere in the UK.

Northern Ireland’s energy market operates differently to the model in Great Britain, with specific rules and regulations.

The region is also without a devolved government due to the political row over the Northern Ireland Protocol post-Brexit trading arrangements.

This weekend the Government will introduce its Energy Price Guarantee in the rest of the UK, under which a typical household will pay on average £2,500 (€2,826) a year for their energy for the next two years from October 1st.

 

Last week it announced a similar price cap scheme for Northern Ireland.

The scheme limits the price suppliers can charge customers for units of gas and electricity.

It will take effect from November, but the Government said it will ensure households receive the same benefit overall as those in Great Britain by backdating support for October bills through bills from November.

It has also said it will provide an additional payment of £100 to households that do not receive support through the price cap, such as those who use home heating oil.

A previously announced £400 discount on energy bills that will begin to be rolled out in Great Britain from October is also being paid to Northern Ireland customers.

However, there has been uncertainty about when that money will be paid in the region.

 

In an interview with BBC Northern Ireland on Thursday, Ms Truss was asked when consumers might expect their “electricity top-up” to be paid.

Ms Truss did not make specific reference to the energy price cap or the £400 discount, but said: “We will be providing the same support to Northern Ireland as we are providing for people in Great Britain.

“It will be backdated to the 1st of October, so people will be getting that same support.

“My understanding is that will happen in November, but it will be backdated to October.

“I will get further details on that but what I can assure people is a scheme that applies in Great Britain will apply in Northern Ireland, it will be backdated to the first of October, so people have reassurance that they’re not going to be struggling with those very high energy bills.”

Earlier on Thursday, DUP Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said he hoped the £400 could be paid in November.

Nadhim Zahawi visit to Belfast
Gordon Lyons (Liam McBurney/PA)

He said good progress had been made in recent days getting the scheme arranged with local suppliers.

“The energy suppliers are coming to a legal agreement and a mechanism to allow that money to be paid,” he said.

“I had previously said that that money would be delivered in November/December time, and that will still be the case. We’re still hoping that that will be November time.

“We will still get it in one payment, whereas in the rest of the United Kingdom that is going to be over a period of six months. We will get all of our money in Northern Ireland before the rest of the UK.

“So we’re getting that money, using our influence to make sure that comes as quickly as possible to those who need it.”

Commenting on households using oil-powered heating being offered £100, Mr Lyons said that was not enough, adding that he had been speaking to officials and ministers about the issue.

“Over 65% of people in Northern Ireland have home heating oil, I don’t want them to be left out, and that’s why I have been engaging with Government to try to tell them why it’s so important that £100 is increased. It is not going to be enough for those who are struggling this winter,” he said.

On the Government’s mini-budget last week, Mr Lyons said he was disappointed that it did not include a VAT cut for hospitality.

“That would have made a real difference for tourism more generally and that hospitality sector in particular, and it is disappointing that that hasn’t happened,” he said.

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