Support towards rising energy costs: what help is available in Northern Ireland?
Updated 17 October 2022
All across the UK households and businesses, large and small, are struggling to pay for their energy needs, as costs hit unprecedented levels. And worry is increasing as we head into the colder days and darker nights of the autumn and winter, when rising prices will combine with increased usage.
In response to this the UK Government has committed, over a series of announcements, to support both households and non-domestic users with their energy costs.
This short article sets out our current understanding of what support is being made available, and how the support will be rolled out to consumers in Northern Ireland. Further detail is still required, and we expect more information to be released by the Government and energy suppliers over the coming weeks.
It is important to note that all payments will be made automatically. You will not need to apply for any support scheme or share personal or financial details to receive a payment. There are several scams circulating and it is important to be vigilant to these.
Support for households
Electricity and gas
As in the rest of the UK, households in Northern Ireland will benefit from a cap placed on the unit price of electricity and gas. This will be in place until April 2023, at which point it will be reviewed. This scheme is called the Energy Price Guarantee.
Through this scheme the amount you can be charged per unit for your gas and electricity is capped, but your overall bill will still depend on how many units of energy you use in your home.
This cap is planned to take effect in Northern Ireland from November, one month later than in the rest of the UK, but will be backdated. The cap will apply automatically to your bill, and there is nothing you need to do at this time.
Households in Northern Ireland who use oil to heat their homes are to be given a one-off payment of £100 to help with the current high cost of home heating oil. This payment is in addition to the previously announced £400 payment that is being made to all households across the UK to help with rising energy costs, and will be made as a ‘top-up’ to that payment in the form of a credit to electricity bills.
In Northern Ireland, the majority of homes use oil as their main source of heating, in contrast to other parts of the UK where the majority of homes are connected to the gas network.
While any additional support is to be welcomed, £100 will not go very far towards the cost of heating a home when the current cost of home heating oil is around £1 per litre. The Northern Ireland Consumer Council said heating oil currently costs more than £520 for 500 litres, compared with about £220 for the same amount a year ago (figures as of 23 September 2022).
The £400 Energy Bills Support payment, previously announced as part of the Energy Bills Support Scheme, will be applied to every household in Northern Ireland as a discount on their electricity bill. More information on each of these schemes is available here.
It is still not clear when the £100 will be paid, with the statement referring only to “this winter” and nor is it clear how the Government will know which households are using oil heating. Note, the payment will also apply to households using LPG, coal and biomass as their main heating fuel.
Additional targeted support
Targeted payments for households on low incomes, people with disabilities and pensioners are still rolling out, or due to be paid. Further information is available here.
Support for businesses
Support for businesses is also important at this time, as the additional costs incurred by business are inevitably felt by the consumers. In particular, through our work with childcare providers, we are very aware of the significant impact that rising costs are having on them.
The UK Government has announced an Energy Bill Relief Scheme for businesses and other non-domestic energy users – such as charities, hospitals and schools – which will cap wholesale energy prices at “less than half” of anticipated winter levels. This support will be automatically applied to bills for six months, from 1 October 2022, and action is not required. Further information on how the scheme will work in Great Britain is available here.
Further information has also been made available on how the scheme will work for businesses and other non-domestic energy users in Northern Ireland – such as charities, schools and hospitals – and is available here.
- Wholesale gas and electricity prices for non-domestic customers will be fixed at a Government supported rate for six months from 1 October 2022.
- The Government supported rate has been set at £211 per megawatt hour for electricity and £75 per megawatt hour for gas. This is comparable to the scheme in Great Britain.
- This will mean that the per unit price charged by energy suppliers will be lower than it otherwise would have been, however the per unit price will still vary as it will include other costs – on top of the wholesale price – such as network charges and operating costs.
It is important to note that support will automatically be applied to eligible bills and no application is necessary. Comparable support will also be provided for non-domestic consumers who use heating oil or alternative fuels instead of gas. Further detail on this will be announced shortly.
We are also calling for a bespoke package of emergency financial support for the childcare sector, to address the soaring cost of living, that is sufficient to support the childcare sector through the crisis and to avoid increases in fees to parents that, otherwise, may be inevitable.
For more information on support with energy bills you can read the Government’s factsheet, available here.
To make sure your family is claiming all the financial support you are entitled to, contact the Family Benefits Advice Service for a free, personalised ‘better off’ calculation. Freephone 0800 028 3008 or email email@example.com.