Jonathan McCambridge, (PA)
The Government has announced an energy price cap for homes in Northern Ireland from November.
Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said the energy support scheme will offer households in Northern Ireland the same level of gas and electricity bill support as an equivalent scheme in Great Britain.
The announcement follows the launch of the Energy Price Guarantee in the rest of the UK, under which a typical household will pay on average £2,500 a year on their energy bill for the next two years from October 1.
The scheme limits the price suppliers can charge customers for units of gas and electricity.
The Government said the scheme will work through electricity and gas bills.
Energy suppliers will reduce bills by a unit price reduction of up to 17p/kWh for electricity and 4.2p/kWh for gas.
It has also said it will provide an additional payment of £100 to households who are not able to receive support through the price cap, such as those who use home heating oil.
The Government said there is no need for householders to take any action to receive the support.
It said the scheme will take effect from November, but it will ensure households receive the same benefit overall as those in Great Britain by backdating support for October bills through bills from November.
Northern Ireland is in a separate energy market from the rest of the UK but the Government has stressed people who live in the region will receive “equivalent support”.
Households in Northern Ireland will also receive a £400 discount on bills through the Northern Ireland Energy Bills Support Scheme, although no timescale has yet been given on when this will be made available.
The Government has also announced plans to introduce a cap on wholesale energy bills for businesses in the rest of the UK from October, and said a parallel scheme will be established in Northern Ireland.
The plan will see energy bills for businesses cut by around half their expected level this winter, although it is not yet clear when this relief will be available for Northern Ireland firms.
Hospitals, schools, charities and other settings such as community halls and churches will also get help.
But hospitality chiefs said businesses in Northern Ireland need “urgent clarity” on how the business relief scheme will operate in the region.
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: “It is simply unacceptable that Northern Ireland businesses do not have any detail on how support will be provided.
“We need urgent clarity on how these measures will be carried forward.
“Thousands of businesses are on the brink, with many concerned how they will get through the winter.
“The cost-of-energy crisis is a real threat to people’s jobs, livelihoods and businesses.
“In what should be the beginning of our busiest period, hospitality is instead looking at how to keep the lights on.
“Further support measures including slashing the VAT rate and a business rates holiday are also urgently required to tackle the cost-of-doing-business crisis.
“We have no choice but to wait for much-needed clarity which will hopefully provide some short-term relief to the hospitality sector in the coming months.”
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “Given the crippling financial difficulties that local independent retailers and other small businesses are experiencing, it is hugely disappointing that more clarity was not provided on the energy cap.
“We have been given no timelines on how the energy cap will apply to Northern Ireland business owners.
“This is unacceptable and our members deserve better.”