19/01/2006

Gas prices to increase by a further 17.3%

Phoenix Gas has today announced that from January 23, there will be further 17.3% increase in gas prices; this comes only three months after the price was raised by a third.

Chief Executive of Phoenix Natural Gas, Peter Dixon said that the company are experiencing record high wholesale gas costs and added that since the company's review in October 2005, gas costs have risen significantly and have almost doubled since the same time last year.

Mr Dixon said: “In arriving at this level of increase, we have consulted extensively since September with the Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation, the General Consumer Council and the Department for Enterprise, Trade & Investment. This increase is a direct pass through of gas costs to customers.”

He continued: “We understand that this increase is unwelcome news and it is now more important than ever for our customers to be as energy efficient as possible, so that they spend no more than is necessary to heat their homes."

DUP Economy Spokesman George Dawson has expressed his disappointment at the increase, he said: “This increase is very disappointing indeed coming on the heels of recent upward movement in the price of gas. At a time when we need to see stability in the gas system this increase now puts the cost of our gas above that of both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

"There is no doubt such increases are part of a world wide trend at the present time. However this announcement will do little to encourage further gas take up. The average gas bill will now be more than £200 more expensive than was the case twelve months ago. It is vital that we see an end to such sharp increases and concentrate efforts on bringing stability to the market.”

Sinn Fein economy spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin has described the latest price hike as "a severe blow to gas customers."

He said that this increase would mean that consumers have been hit with a 52% increase over the past four months. He continued: "Phoenix cannot be allowed to blame this massive increase on the prevailing wholesale gas prices. This increase will mean that Phoenix customers in the Six Counties will be paying nearly two thirds more than customers in Britain and over 20% more than those in the rest of Ireland."

Querying the company's commitment to keep gas prices down, he accused the company of "abuse of its monopoly position."

Ulster Unionist Party spokesman Roy Beggs Jnr described the price hike as a "hammer blow" to consumers and called on the company for a full explanation of the rise.

He said: “Gas in Northern Ireland is now two-thirds more expensive than in England. British Gas have managed to shield their customers and consumers in the Republic of Ireland are also protected."

(EF/SP)

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