Where’s the Electricity competition?

First Published February 20th, 2005 – Last Updated March 16th, 2009

It appears to have been a very well-kept secret that on February 19th, 2005, it has become possible for you to choose who you buy your electricity from. On that date, not only will all businesses (irrespective of size) be able to choose their electricity supplier, but all home residential electricity customers will also be able to change their electricity supplier.

Irish residential electricity consumers will no longer be tied to the ESB and their regular price increases, including 4% at the beginning of 2005, quickly on the heals of a 9% increase in September last year.

In the same way that we recently began to choose alternative suppliers for our home telephone calls and benefit from competition in the market once dominated by Eircom, we should soon be able to receive the same benefit of competition in the home residential electricity market.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has the responsibility for introducing full competition to the electricity market in Ireland by 2005. The stated objective of the CER is to protect the interests of final customers, and therefore it is with this in mind that the electricity market is now, officially, fully open to competition.

But will we actually have that choice? Will there be any immediate benefit to the Irish residential consumer of this electricity market de-regulation?

The CER website informs consumers that there are 6 active independent electricity suppliers now operating in the Irish market. Add in the ESB, and there is the appearance of quite a choice for the consumer.

Value Ireland, in pursuit of it’s aim to help Irish consumers make “better purchasing decisions through better information”, contacted each of these 6 independent electricity suppliers to find out what benefits they’ll be providing Irish residential electricity consumers from February 19th next. Here is what we found out.

Update March 16th, 2009 – Airtricity and Bord Gais Energy

In the last month, both Airtricty and Bord Gais Energy have entered the Irish residential electricity market. Both companies offered substantial discounts over and above the ESB price of electricity in an attempt to encourage Irish consumers to switch.

Click here for the updated best prices available from both companies.

Update September 8th, 2007 – Scottish & Southern

Last month, the UK power company Scottish & Southern announced that it would enter the “newly deregulated” Irish power market – on November 1st. Before we all get excited though, a couple of things to notice:

It will first concentrate on the commercial and industrial markets, a spokesman said yesterday, with supplies initially sourced from the wholesale pool overseen by the energy regulator and supplied through the facilities of the ESB and Bord Gáis.

Scottish & Southern is a publicly traded company (SSE.L) which pays it’s shareholders an increasing rate of dividends, and to fund this they have been known to continuously increase their prices over time in order to raise it’s profits.

However, the company is rated number 2 in the Observer newspapers Good Companies guide “thanks to its pioneering approach to greener energy.”

In short however, can you see any difference between this company and any of the other market participants we have at the moment – not really a whole lot for us consumers to be excited about then.

While confirming that at present, Airtricity supplies green electricity to over 35,000 small and medium sized companies in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, they also informed Value Ireland that they have no immediate plans to enter into the Irish residential electricity market.

Update – April 17th, 2005 – It has been reported that Airtricity are now supplying electricity to domestic consumers. Their prices are exactly the same as the ESB. However, if you want your electricity to be from renewable resources (such as wind energy), then this would be a reason to change to Airtricity.

Update – January, 2008 – Airtricity is now owned by Scottish & Southern.

Direct Independent Energy Limited
Direct Independent Energy has confirmed to Value Ireland that they will not be entering the domestic electricity market in time for de-regulation. They also do not appear to have any timeframe for they intend to supply residential electricity customers.

Update November 2008 – This company seems to no longer exist – at least their website is no longer available.

Value Ireland has discovered that at present Energia have no plans to enter the domestic market. They did confirm that this may change “in the coming years”.

ESB Independent Energy
When contacted by Value Ireland, ESB Independent Energy (a separate entity from the ESB as we know it) confirmed that it does not plan to enter the home electricity market in 2005. The company plans on continuing to focus their attentions on the Industrial/Commercial Sector during this period.

Bord Gais Eireann
Bord Gais stated that they expected to be in a position to provide a full service to residential customers from next winter onwards.  They say that they are finalising their tariff structures for residential customers at the moment.

CH Power
CH Power was the only company contacted by Value Ireland that was even considering offering supply to residential consumers in the February 2005 time frame. They confirmed to Value Ireland that they will be offering % discounts to domestic users and that they “hope that this will come into effect from February 2005”.
Update January 2008 – CH Power has been taken over by Scottish & Southern which has incorporated the CH Power into its Irish operations under Airtricity.

Not much choice there then. Of 6 possible competitors to the ESB, only one company “hopes” to be supply residential customers with electricity when the market opens in February 2005.

For residential customers therefore, it doesn’t appear that the Commission for Energy Regulation has been entirely successful in “introducing full competition to the electricity market in Ireland by 2005”. While there is competition evident in the business and commercial sector, it appears that the residential sector has been neglected completely – an evident failure on the part of the CER to introduce competition for the Irish residential consumer.

Despite the fact that there will be only one possible competitor to the ESB in the short-term, on a brighter note, for those that do want to change suppliers, the process appears to be relatively straight forward.

You start by signing a customer agreement with your newly selected supplier, and return this to them with a copy of your most recent electricity bill.

Your new electricity supplier should do the rest for you. They will send your details to the Meter Registration System Operator (MRSO) whose primary role is the provision of a central registration process and for the transfer of the responsibility of supply to you, the customer, from your old supplier to your newly chosen supplier.

The MRSO will inform your new supplier of the start date from which they must begin to supply your electricity – normally this will be from the point of your most recent meter read date.

Then, as a customer of your new supplier you will receive your bills from them depending on their own chosen billing cycle. You’ll have nothing more to do with the ESB.

While it is positive to have such an easy process to help you switch suppliers, it is a let-down for the Irish consumer that despite all the possibilities of a de-regulated market, we still don’t have much of a choice of suppliers to switch to. For the moment, www.valueireland.com will be updated with each company’s offering as and when it is launched.

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