UTV Podcast: Why Northern Ireland energy is expensive and how to keep living costs down

Energy prices have rocketed throughout 2022 in Northern Ireland.

An economist has warned energy prices in Northern Ireland could suffer "permanent scarring" after the huge spike in costs in the past year.

Energy bills have risen so fast and so high the government was forced to intervene in the form of a price guarantee scheme. Another £600 support payment from the government is also expected in the new year.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said there are "significant difficulties" getting the £600 payment to the Northern Ireland public but has said it will be delivered before April next year.

Ana Desmond, assistant economist at the University of Ulster Economic Policy Centre discussed the surge in energy prices in this week's UTV Podcast.

She explained: "Russia has really cut back on the energy that they're supplying across Europe and that is beginning to translate from something we're seeing in the headlines, to something we're getting through the post in our bills."

Asked if the high energy prices would last, she replied: "We're hoping that will start to come down into the next year but it is something that we're going to see maybe permanent scarring.

"We would be hoping to see those downward pressures coming into play, hopefully over the next coming year or so."

Ms Desmond also explained the knock on effect the energy price rises were having on the economy.

High energy prices mean people have less disposable income, she explained that: "Northern Ireland is a consumption driven economy" and this is one of the reasons a recession was likely in 2023.

Aodhan O'Donnell, chief executive of Power To Switch, was able to provide some practical advice on how to keep bills low.

Northern Ireland is a competitive market for energy suppliers which means each supplier may offer varying deals.

As explained by Aodhan O'Donnell: "Some suppliers buy on the day ahead market, some months ahead, some years ahead.

"At this time it's really important to just know how much you're paying and if there are better deals"

When questioned about the long-awaited £600 government support scheme, he expressed some frustration at the delays.

"The political way that it's going to be delivered still hasn't been determined and I think that's a real concern for people.

"Consumers look across the water and they look at the payments being made.

"Rightly, consumers are getting concerned."

Some vulnerable members of the community may not have the option to switch off their heating this winter.

Aodhan urged those people to: "Get in touch with your energy supplier, they have codes of practice in terms of helping people that have vulnerabilities.

"It's important to be on the critical care register, as well as the priority services register."

The latest edition of the UTV Podcast also follows journalist Tori Watson as she visits a 'warm welcome' facility in Newtownabbey to hear from some of those struggling to cope in the cost-of-living crisis.

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