UK Car Lending

The Earth’s Corr: It’s not fair that Power NI, SSE and Firmus profits are protected while we are all suffering – Shauna Corr

Another week, another announcement that our fuel bills are rising – again.

But while customers across Northern Ireland have seen the cost of heating and electricity rise by hundreds of per cent in recent months, supplier profits have not been hit at all.

And although we are all tied to the support of fossil fuels through strategic policy, governments are still not taking the necessary steps to free us from their chains.

Read more: The Earth’s Corr: Hydraulic fracturing is not the answer to our energy crisis Sammy

Earlier this week, a Shell executive resigned rather publicly over the company’s failure to take concrete action on the climate crisis.

Meanwhile, the UK government, Stormont and local authorities are still considering dozens of projects that keep fossil fuel companies’ stranglehold on the way we heat and light our homes.

Two of these projects in the pipeline in Northern Ireland include an application for seven gas caverns under Larne Lough and a new oil distribution terminal at Cloghan Point.

The two Co Antrim projects have attracted major opposition due to their impact on both locals and the environment. But they are still on the table.

And I don’t know if you know this, but despite NI passing its first climate bill, it didn’t include any bans on fossil fuel projects.

But how does this impact us?

The Guardian reported last week how the UK has approved several fossil fuel projects since the country hosted COP26 in Glasgow.

This is despite pledges to cut carbon emissions and the International Energy Agency’s view that no new fossil fuel development should take place if global net-zero targets are to be met by 2050. And it seems that the war on Ukraine and the resulting abandonment of Russian gas is being used as an excuse.

I know the onslaught has seen wholesale energy prices rise exponentially around the world. But here in Northern Ireland, the UK and Ireland, customers appear to be the only ones affected.

Northern Ireland’s utility regulator tells me these price hikes are responsible for “more than half of consumers’ bills”.

They added: ‘The single most important development that will reduce electricity and gas bills for consumers in Northern Ireland is a drop in these wholesale energy costs.’

Meanwhile, the three companies they “cap” – Power NI, SSE and Firmus – have not had their profit caps lowered. Doesn’t seem fair does it.

Power NI has a profit cap of 2.2% while SSE and Firmus’ profits were capped at 2% when a deal was struck almost five years ago.

I think you will agree that a lot has changed since then. So my question is this: why, in these unusual times, have these price controls not been revisited?

Two percent may not seem like a lot and I’m told that “the impact of cutting these profits below the current level would have an extremely small impact on consumer prices.”

But I’m sure any reduction in customer bills would be welcomed by families who use their hobs to heat their homes because they can’t afford to turn on the gas or those who choose between heating and eating.

Even a saving of five cents would make a huge difference for some!

It’s great that the Department for Communities has provided a one-off payment of £200 to help around 280,000 people with their energy bills and that energy companies have contributed to a £2million emergency fuel payment scheme of £.

But that’s a drop in the ocean compared to the impact it’s had on all of us. The only way to really make a difference is to pressure suppliers to lower their prices.

Why should they keep the same profits while the rest of us are suffering and the goods they sell are harming our planet?

Earnings review plans

Heating your home if you are a firmus gas customer is about to get cheaper

The utilities regulator says it is “currently reviewing gas supplier profits as part of a price control review”.

I am told that the result of the 2022 consultation is expected in March 2023.

So it’s another winter where we can expect prices to stay as they are unless governments do something or wholesale prices fall.

The latter is not likely, so I would like to see real action on government policy to force suppliers to play their part.

While I welcome the government measures which will hopefully put £400 in all of our pockets in the form of any energy rebate, I do have concerns.

Isn’t this another case where public money is used to bail out those who have a lot?

Shell reported profits of $9.1 billion in the first quarter of this year, while BP’s profits more than doubled in the same period to $6.2 billion.

It’s time to phase out fossil fuels and provide more economical and climate-friendly alternatives to the masses.

Buses in the future

Wrightbus has reached an agreement to build hydrogen buses for Germany
Wrightbus has reached an agreement to build hydrogen buses for Germany

Wrightbus is doing great things with its hydrogen buses.

Yesterday the Ballymena company announced that it had reached an agreement to manufacture up to 60 of the machines for Germany.

This is the second international trade agreement they have concluded in two weeks.

It just goes to show that NI companies can be at the forefront with climate-friendly solutions that reduce our fossil fuel needs while creating green jobs.

This latest deal with German bus operator Regionalverkehr Köln GmbH (RVK) will see dozens of cleaner buses on European streets.

Wrightbus Executive Chairman Jo Bamford said: “This agreement is important to us in many ways.

“Not only is this our first European order since I took office, it is also our second international contract in quick succession and it shows that Wrightbus has a huge role to play on the world stage.

“All RVK buses will be built in Ballymena, which will provide additional support to the wider regional economy and allow us to create green jobs while continuing to grow.”

The first vehicles will be delivered to RVK in 2023, with the rest to be delivered in 2024.

Walking, rolling and cycling will save us

Active travel is cheaper and contributes to our health and the environment
Active travel is cheaper and contributes to our health and the environment

Active Travel Challenge month is fast approaching.

So I would love, I would love, I would love for you to drop the car – even if it’s only a few days a week – and take over.

The joint initiative by Translink, DfI, the Public Health Agency, Sustrans, the Belfast Trust and Council aims to encourage more people to walk, cycle or cycle.

With rising petrol prices and just being alive, it might even help us save a few pounds.

I have challenged the team here to do their part and hope you will join us as we move on our own through June.

Week 1 is cycling week, 2 – public transport, 3 – walking and 4 – wellness now and beyond.

Sustrans Director Caroline Bloomfield said: “Instead of sitting in a traffic jam or spending time looking for parking, why not try walking or cycling as part of your commute, your shopping or leisure.

“As many of us return to some form of office work, there is a great opportunity to change the way we commute to work.

“The Active Travel Challenge is a great way to start being active in your daily routine and transition to a healthier lifestyle that will also benefit the environment.”

Read more: NI comedian shows why she’s ‘saved’ with Stormont in series of skits

Read more: Community beach cleaners raise prize after collecting ton of trash

To get the latest news straight to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter.