Assembly Committee Challenges NIE on Planned Price Rise

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 16 June 2011

Reference: ETI01/11/12

The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment heard from NIE and the Utility Regulator today on plans to increase electricity prices to help fill a gap in an NIE pension fund.

During the meeting representatives from NIE were questioned by Committee members on why it plans to pass on to consumers the costs in bridging the gap in its pension fund, whether the company has considered other options for filling the gap, or indeed if it has a Plan B if the Utility Regulator refuses the request.

Committee Chairman, Alban Maginness, MLA said: “The Committee was understandably concerned when it heard about NIE’s plans to pass on costs for the gap in its pension fund to consumers. We are very conscious of the constraints on everyone’s pockets these days with rising fuel, food and general living costs.

“The Utility Regulator has explained that it is policy for utility companies to recover any unavoidable costs for pension deficits from consumers. However, we want to make sure that all avenues have been considered by NIE before it increases its costs further, especially since consumers are already paying for a considerable element of the pension deficit.

“While the Committee would have hoped to see consumers protected from this increase, from what we hear today this is likely to be unavoidable. We are satisfied the Utility Regulator will work to minimise the impact on consumers. We would also hope the markets will recover sufficiently to reduce the deficit over the medium term.”