ELECTRICITY prices will be slashed by 16.2% by Power NI following a drop in wholesale market costs — but bills will still soar by almost £120 a year.
The only domestic supplier that is price-regulated in the region said a review of underlying residential unit prices has resulted in a decrease of 6.61p per unit.
However, it will coincide with support from the Government's Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) Scheme reducing by 10.33p per unit — meaning tariffs will still increase overall by 3.72p per unit, or around 14%.
The new residential electricity unit price will be effective from April 1.
It marks the second reduction in tariffs by Power NI, which provides customers with an additional level of safeguarding, as tariffs are only adjusted through a Utility Regulator validated formula, this year.
Director of customer solutions William Steele said the decrease in wholesale energy prices has enabled Power NI to again reduce its underlying unit price.
"However, the recent change by the UK Government to its Energy Price Guarantee means that a lower level of scheme discount will be applied to all electricity bills," he explained.
"Unfortunately, this means customers will see a 14% increase in prices.
"We understand that some customers may be worried about paying bills.
"We would ask for any concerned customers to contact us directly and we will help you."
Mr Steele said the company is working directly with customers and will continue to work closely with its charity partners and other key stakeholders to ensure the most vulnerable people in society and those who are struggling get the help they need.
The Consumer Council said the typical standard Power NI credit bill will increase by around £119 and Power NI customers with a prepayment meter will also see their costs increase by £116 a year.
Its director of infrastructure and sustainability Peter Mc- Clenaghan welcomed the reduction in wholesale energy prices and Power NI price cut.
"However, as this is happening at the same time as changes to the level of the Energy Price Guarantee, consumers' bills will increase," he added.
"This strange situation is happening because the additional back-dated EPG support consumers here were receiving is ending.
"The additional support had been provided because the EPG was introduced later in Northern Ireland.
"Due to the change in EPG, it is likely that the other four unregulated electricity suppliers in Northern Ireland will increase their prices, accordingly, meaning that consumers should consider reviewing their tariff in the coming months to ensure they are on the best deal for their needs, as money can be saved by switching supplier, tariff, or billing method.
"We know from our pulse survey that most consumers in Northern Ireland are still really worried about home energy prices.
"We urge anyone who is struggling to pay their energy bills or top-up their meters to contact their supplier directly for help and support."
Meanwhile Budget Energy has confirmed that it is reducing its domestic standard variable unit rate by 19% from April 1, 2023.
The cheaper rate means a typical pre-pay customer will save around £324 a year.
General manager of the energy provider Sean O'Loughlin said the company has always been committed to passing on savings once market conditions improved.
"Therefore, we are pleased to confirm the rate cut from April 1, 2023, and we hope that this is the first step in returning household electricity prices to more affordable levels for our customers," he said.
However, he warned that international markets remain volatile as he vowed to continue to monitor the market to see if further price changes are possible into the future.