Firmus Energy has announced a significant increase in gas prices that will take effect later in the month.

For residents in the Ten Towns region of the energy provider, the 33.57% increase is effective from February 24, 2017.

The Ten Towns Area includes: Londonderry and Limavady; Coleraine (including Portstewart, Bushmills), Ballymoney and Ballymena (Broughshane); Antrim (including Ballyclare, Templepatrick); Craigavon (including Portadown, Lurgan), Banbridge and Newry (Warrenpoint), Armagh and more than 25 villages and towns in the area.

Approximately 59,000 customers will be affected. Their bills will rise by almost PS300 per year to approximately PS1,300.

This is the latest increase in gas prices since last year. The average gas price in the Ten Towns region was PS518 in September.

Firmus attributed the recent rise to a “significant” increase of wholesale gas prices, which has been occurring since 3 December.

This tariff change will not affect Firmus energy customers located in Greater Belfast or in the gas-to-the West network area.

John French, Chief Executive of the Utility Regulator, stated: “In December 2021, Firmus Energy submitted a request to us to review their Ten Towns tariff for small and domestic consumers. This review was done in the face of a significant increase in wholesale gas prices since Firmus Energy’s last tariff hike on 3/12/2021.

“We have reviewed and evaluated Firmus Energy’s submission and consulted the Department for the Economy, and the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland. This review found that an increase of 33.57% from 24 February 2022 was necessary to reflect the continuing and extraordinary price spikes in the global wholesale markets. It will also mean that the average household gas bill for the Ten Towns area will rise to PS1,293 annually.

He said, “The unimaginable increases in wholesale energy costs at a global scale have persisted and continue their impact on supplier prices. The market volatility has exacerbated this problem with large price swings occurring almost daily.

“Unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight for wholesale prices that are significantly higher than the trend during 2022.” We are aware of the impact that further increases in energy prices will have on Northern Ireland’s consumers. With the Department for the Economy and Department for Communities, we established a working group to explore practical ways to reduce the impact of higher prices on consumers this winter.

“I am happy that the Northern Ireland Executive has provided substantial funding to support local electricity consumers.” I have written to all energy providers and reminded them about their regulatory obligations to avoid customer disconnections and to consider other ways to protect customers in debt.

“We will also be following up with individual meetings to all energy suppliers to ensure that they are supporting their customers.” I encourage anyone concerned about their energy bill to get in touch with their supplier immediately.

“There are many agencies that can offer free and independent advice including Advice NI and Money and Pensions Service and Christians Against Poverty.”

Raymond Gormley is the head of energy policy for the Consumer Council. He stated: “The Utility Regulator warned us that this year’s energy price increases will continue due to exceptionally high global wholesale gasoline prices. However, it is not good news for consumers when prices rise.”

“This will put enormous pressure on many households trying to pay their gas bills.”