Tag Archives | electricity competition

Bord Gais Electricity Switching Problems

I know there’s been some coverage in the media about the delays on the part of Bord Gais Energy in handing the volume of ESB customers that want to switch, but has anyone experienced any other problems with the switching process?

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve received 1 or 2 e-mails from ValueIreland.com detailing issues where they’ve had problems with regards to meter readings before and after the switch. Here’s the experience of one reader:

As part of the switch procedure, Bord Gais advised me that I would be receiving a final bill from ESB and thereafter all future billing would be through Bord Gais.

I received a bill from ESB for 489.00 which I paid.

Unbeknown to me, Bord Gais and ESB had internal communications which were not copied to me. According to ESB, Bord Gais contacted ESB and advised ESB of a final meter reading which was an estimated reading. This reading was apparently for the period to 1 to 5 May when the switch was to take place. I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION AND WAS NOT ADVISED BY EITHER BORD GAIS OR ESB!!!

I had taken a meter reading when I paid our final bill to ESB and noted that the ESB estimated reading was higher than the actual reading but I didn’t do anything about it because I was advised that Bord Gais would charge the meter reading from our last ESB bill WHICH I HAD ASSUMED WAS THE €489.00 BILL WHICH WE HAD PAID.

I have since received a further bill for ESB (again an estimated reading) for an amount of €24.63. I phoned ESB Customer Services and spoke to a lady called Bernadette at 3.25pm on 9/06/09 to enquire what this bill was all about and was advised that it was a final reading for the period 1-5 May.

My concern is that as the ESB estimated reading was higher than our actual reading (unfortunately I destroyed the record once I received confirmation from Bord Gaid that the switch had taken place), we don’t actually owe ESB any money, despite the fact that they have raised a further invoice.

My point is that the onus is surely on ESB to take an accurate final reading or at least to contact the customer for an actual reading before they close an account. ESB maintain that the fault lies with Bord Gais as they supplied an estimated reading. My contention is that this cannot be the case – ESB raised the invoice and they must take responsibility to ensure that their final invoices are accurate.

I do not believe I should pay for an inaccurate estimated reading that was inflated above the actual reading and maintain I don’t owe ESB any money.

I can’t find anything specific on either companies website on what this customer can do in this situation apart from go through their respective complaint handling procedures.

On the face of the information provided above, it would seem that the reader should be directing their complaints specifically at the ESB since they provided the extra bill.

However, that I understand the switching process, the Bord Gais Energy requirement is that they provide an actual meter reading at the time of switching to the ESB rather than an estimated reading as per the e-mail, so maybe they have a case to answer as well.

Anyone else had similar difficulties with the switching process? Any advice for this customer?

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Comparing Ireland to France when thinking of moving home

I received this e-mail a little while ago from someone who was in the process of moving home to Ireland from France. They’d done significant research on the impact to their pocket of moving home when it came to their bills and shopping. (Before the last budget, mind you). Here’s the problems they found they’d be encountering when moving home:

I’d like to contact you to offer both my compliments and thanks to your site.

I’m moving back to Ireland after spending five years abroad – four of them in France and one of them in the UK. I’ve been planning the move back since November and found your site in December, and have been following the posts on the site since then. It’s provided a wealth of valuable information for me. I thought I’d share some thoughts about French and Irish prices, from the point of view of an average Joe, rather than a columnist in the paper. After all, the EU is supposed to be about the freedom of goods, single market, better competition and all that jazz.

France is a strange place for consumer pricing. Some areas see fierce competition, while others, for example the taxi industry, remain expensive and regularly.

Home telecom and internet sees, in my opinion, the best competition with excellent prices available.I am with a company called free who provide me with telephone, internet and television for 29.99 per month. There are hundreds of stations to choose from, the internet is 24mb speed with no download cap, and the phone calls to most EU and several international landlines are completely free. In comparison one of the best similar deals I can find in Ireland is with ChrousNTL, which will cost me 77 euro a month, and won’t include free EU or international calls – with close family in the US, UK and Spain as well as Ireland, this will be a disappointing drop in value. Not only will the base cost be more than double what I’m paying here, I will still need to factor in the cost of calls to the aforementioned countries.

Next up with have electricity. Electricity in France is reasonably priced, and that’s even with the default company, EDF. My current scheme runs on a yearly basis – I pay a fixed fee every month from my bank based on average usage for 11 months of the year, then it’s tallied at the 12th month. According to my last paper bill in August 2008, the origin of the previous year’s electricity was 87% Nuclear, 7.1% renewables of which 5.7% was hydro electric, 3.7% carbon, 3.2% gas, 1.5% fuel and 0.3% others. Wiki tells me that high % of nuclear power is a result of the 1973 oil crisis badly affecting the country. So, let’s see what sort of cost all that nuclear energy gives consumers.

Usage
August 2005 – August 2006: 2149 kWh – Cost: €300 approx – harder to calculate as EDF was still linked with gas bill and I had gas on the same bill.
August 2006 – August 2007: 2393 kWh – Cost: €318.09
August 2007 – August 2008: 2614 kWh – Cost: €346
August 2008 – August 2009: 2592 kWh – Cost: €360- obviously this is based on presumed usage, but I’m paying for this figure on a monthly basis at any rate.

These include the unit rate, and each year I’ve paid 12-14 euro for other fees.

My bill states that I pay just over 7 cent a unit, but the price plan i’m on seems to be represent the actual price of about  €0.1350 cent a unit. Not that much cheaper than the ESB clocking in at €0.1640 – yet the difference adds up; for my current estimate of usage it would be €425.08 with the ESB for the electricity alone.however this doesn’t include the standing charge, which makes no appearance on a French bill. This is approximately €0.28602 including vat (all my prices include vat, and on French sites TTC indicates vat included) for a year this amounts to another €104.39, bringing the total bill to €529.47 with ESB We are surrounded by wind and waves that could provide a cheaper and sustainable source of electricity…
On this note, I gather prices will drop; I noticed a large series of campaigns by Bord Gais about bringing cheaper energy to the market.

Mobile phone – here’s one where Ireland beats France, but where the UK stands ahead. I’ve included the UK  Offers there trump France and Ireland by a long shot. I’ve included them as I’ve lived there in the past, and have family there to compare deals with. I checked out the following links in anticipation of moving back for a phone I’ve fancied, and posted the best deals I could find in each country for a mix of text and minutes.

UK contracts for LG U990 touchscreen phone:

1) Free phone – 100 minutes and unlimited texts per month, £20 a month for 18 months with 3 telecom.

OR

2)
Free phone – 400 minutes and 500 texts, £29.37/month but 7 month free rebate means it averages at £17.95 per month for 18 months with o2

Ireland contracts for same phone with 3 telecom.

€149 phone – 90 mins OR 270 texts, €19 a month for 12 months
or
€129 phone – 150 mins OR 450 texts, €29 a month for 12 months

As you can see, you receive a lot more in the UK. Against France, Ireland wins out. The offers here are many and convoluted, especially with Orange. The same phone on a 1 year contract with Orange France costs 79 euro and has several contract methods. €18 a month contract gets you 40 minutes to mobiles and national numbers, or “unlimited texts” between 1600 and 2000. €21 gets you 60 minutes or “unlimited texts” between 1600 and 2000. The issue is the texts aren’t unlimited – you can convert your minutes to a fixed block of texts, 150 and 180 respectively. Higher packages similiarly yield more poor results.

Groceries – sadly I left my notepad in Ireland with the prices I had mentioned, So I can’t comment too much here. For an overall feel of prices, I’ve found France cheaper in general for all goods such as day to day shopping, or things from the electronics section in the supermarket. Without the exact prices to hand, I noted that for store brand produce, the prices were very close between Ireland and France for standard supermarkets (Dunnes Stores, Tesco, etc against Auchan, Carreforre), but for branded goods the differences showed. I’m pretty certain the difference in innocent fruit smoothy was almost two euro.

I guess none of that will matter too much to me as I will be shopping at Aldi/Lidl to minimise costs as much as possible.

Anyway, enough ranting from me, thanks for the great site and keep up the good work.

Makes for some interesting reading, doesn’t it. We’re being told that we now have competitive electricity and mobile phone markets, yet we’re not seeing the type of offers and discounts that you could get in either the UK or France.

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Irish consumer inertia – it’s why we’re ripped off so much

80,000 switch from ESB to Bord Gáis
I’ve written here a few times recently about the advent of a sort of competition in the electricity market recently with the entry of Airtricty and Bord Gais Energy to the residential home electricity market to compete with the ESB.

Switching to either of these competitors will get you discounts of 10-14% on your current ESB bills.

So, have you switched? Why not?

According to this article from RTE News in the last few days, while 80,000 people have made The Big Switch from the ESB to Bord Gais Energy, the ESB still has 95% of the electricity supply market.

If you can be guaranteed, as Bord Gais Energy have, to get electricity from 5-10% cheaper for the next 3 years, why would you not change your electricity?

Is it because of one of the biggest problems with Irish consumers that allows us be consistently ripped off over the past 4 or 5 years?

Consumer Inertia is not the friend of the Irish consumer, but is best buddies with the many non-competitive and high price charging Irish based businesses.

This is a great example of consumer inertia that this country suffers from in all areas of consumer behaviour.

All it takes to change electricity supplier is to make a single phone call, yet so relatively few ESB customers are doing so. If you don’t want to change to Bord Gais Energy, then you could always change to Airtricity instead – either way, we’re getting what we’ve been calling for for ages – an alternative to the ESB.

So why not change? Get up off your behind and make the call now! What do you owe the ESB by staying as one of their customers?

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So where’s the cheapest electricity now?

Irish News of the World

Sunday 8th March, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Reader Question – So where is the cheapest electricity now?

Q: A couple of weeks ago, you wrote about Bord Gais and Airtricity selling cheaper electricity. But in the last week, both the ESB and Airtricty have announced cheaper electricity prices. Who’s now the best value for electricity now?

A: If you’re a gas customer of Bord Gais, then getting your electricity from them also will be your cheapest option. They guarantee for 1 year that they’ll give you a 14% discount on whatever the ESB price is. So, with the ESB price drop this week,that would mean you’ll save 24% or nearly €250 on your average yearly electricity costs.

If you’re not, you’d get a 12% discount from Bord Gais, but Airtricity will still give you a 13% discount – almost as much as a saving per year.

Remember though, while Bord Gais Energy will guarantee their discounts, Airtricty only say that they’ll do their best to keep the discounts in place.

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Go green by being mean

A bit of a “green” theme here on ValueIreland.com today – here’s the first of 3 articles.

When it comes to your carbon footprint and being green, the Irish consumer on average spends up to €5000 per year on gas, electricity, petrol and heating oil that all have an impact on our environment. How much better would we all feel if we could both lessen the impact we’re having on the environment while also saving ourselves some cash as well?

The primary principle of “being green” is to reduce – reducing what we buy, reduce what we use and reduce what we waste or throw out.

ValueIreland.com provide a series of cost free Top Tips checklists at www.valueireland.com/top-tips/ that will help you identify where you might be wasting money on your gas, electricity, petrol and heating oil usage. It will ultimately help you save you money.

The ESB website has an “Appliance Calculator” that everyone should check out to see the cost of their electricity usage. Do you leave your computer on all the time, even though you’re not using it? That’s nearly €35 on your bill. Or do you have the coffee “on” during the day? That’s nearly €60 every two months.

In the last week alone, Eamonn Ryan TD, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources announced that the price of electricity will drop by 10% in the coming year. This was quickly followed by announcements from Airtricity and Bord Gais that they will start supplying electricity to Irish consumers in competition to the ESB – finally, 4 years after the market was deregulated.

For the double whammy, using Airtricity means that up to 80% of your electricity comes from renewable resources – compared to a measly 9% from the ESB.

If you use gas, your only option is to reduce your usage and shop around for the lowest price, but the choice is even more limited. Flogas Natural Gas is the only residential competitor to Bord Gais (a fact not known by many people). However, since Flogas Natural Gas is only marginally cheaper on price, they’re not really competing.

One option you do have if you’re using Bord Gais is to investigate their alternative tariffs introduced in 2008. These include not paying the ridiculous standing charge (in exchange for a slightly higher usage rate) or a special tariff for high winter users, or especially high residential users.

If you’re a home heating oil user, an independent online service called BoilerJuice.ie could be for you. This site as created to bring oil users and suppliers together to get better prices by instantly getting you the lowest price for central heating oil delivered to you from their list of suppliers in your local area. ValueIreland.com has received a number of positive reviews about this money saving service.

But what other things can you do to help save the planet and save money at the same time?

The first and simplest thing you can do is to invest in CFL energy efficient light bulbs. These bulbs are 4 times more efficient and last 10 times longer than normal light bulbs. Though Minister John Gormley hasn’t banned normal light bulbs yet, given that these bulbs could save you 25% on your lighting costs for a year, they’re worth checking out.

If you don’t even know where to start spending on improvements to your house, you could get an Energy Audit carried out on your house. This will get your home a Building Energy Rating (BER) which you will need if you want to sell your house in the future (way in the future the way things are going).

More immediately, it will also help identify potential heat loss in your house, the efficiency of your heaters and boilers and will get you recommendations on what you could do. Be sure to shop around for the best price for a rating as the cost can vary from €250 to over €500, even though the BER is the same no matter who does it.

While many issues identified could be easily fixed with a little DIY, or with the help of a plumber or handyman, for larger expenses, the Government provides a series of incentives and grants for Irish home owners to invest in upgrading their homes to become more green and energy efficient.

Phase 3 of the Greener Homes Scheme came into effect in July last year. The aim of this scheme is to assist home owners who wish to invest in renewable technologies as well as promoting the increased usage of renewable energy in Irish homes. The ultimate then is to decrease the countries reliance on fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal and to reduce the impact of harmful CO2 emissions on the environment.

The website of Sustainable Energy Ireland provides all the details at www.SEI.ie provided the details but what can you get?

Grants are available for anyone who wants to install solar heating on their roof for heating either their hot water or their whole house.

Alternatively, you could get assistance in installing a “heat pump” – these essentially take heat from the ground under your lawn or your house and release it at a higher temperature into your central heating system.

Finally, these grants will assist you in installing wood chip or pellet stoves or boilers. These units can either be used to heat rooms (stove), your hot water or your entire house (boiler).

While these grants are great for home owners who might want to do their bit for the environment as well as their pockets, its unfortunate that schemes aren’t available to the many of us in the country who live in apartments.

A final note of caution – these higher cost alternatives should primarily be seen as helping you go green rather than saving you money as the payback period for your investment could be anything between 5 and 20 years.

The Irish energy efficiency website, www.powerofone.ie, is the place to go to find out more about saving energy and going green.

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Switch to save more: At last, the power of real competition

Irish News of the World

February 22nd, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Electricity Competition Arrives in Ireland

Like the 19A bus, we wait for 4 years for a competitor to arrive for the ESB in a deregulated electricity market, and then in a month we get two – Bord Gais Energy and Airtricity. But before we get carried away, there are 19 electricity suppliers in the UK so we’ve a long way to go.

This is still good news for the Irish consumer. But how much can we actually save, and is everything as good as it seems. And more importantly, are there any catches?

Bord Gais Energy this week announced a promise to new customers that they will be always at least 10% cheaper than the ESB for the first year you sign up to them. They then guarantee to be 5% cheaper than the ESB for year 2 and year 3 after that.

If you’re a gas customer of Bord Gais already, they’ll give you an extra 2% discount, and as in incentive to pay by direct debit, they’ll give you another 2% off.

For the average electricity customer who can pay up to €1000 per year on electricity that’s a saving of between €100 and €125 per year.

Airtricity arrived a couple of weeks ago to the household market, but things are a little more complicated as they have 6 different discount levels. Depending on how you pay, they will give you between a discount of between 3% (paying by cheque) and 10% (for the Level Payment Plan and eBill).

Airtricity don’t provide a discount guarantee like Bord Gais Energy, but they’ll “endeavour” to provide the same discounts no matter what the ESB does.

So moving to Airtricity will save the average electricity customer up to €90 per year.
But with Airtricity you do have the benefits of using electricity that’s significantly greener than its competitors. 79% of electricity from Airtricity is from renewable resources, compared to 16% from Bord Gais Energy and 9% from the ESB.

This all sounds too good to be true – so where’s the catch?

For a start, even with these reductions, we’re still paying too much for our electricity. Last November, Sustainable Energy Ireland reported that Irish consumers were paying 20% more for our electricity than our European neighbours. But it’s a start I suppose.

What about switching away from the ESB? We’re told that switching will be simple and that we won’t even notice. We just ring up, give a meter reading and our meter number from our bill and that the rest will happen in the background.

But many of us tried to change land line or broadband provider in the past where the change was supposed to be equally simple. Given reports already this week, the ESB will be losing customers by the thousand, so it remains to be seen how easily the ESB will give up their customers.

A frequent problem when switching phone or land line providers in the past has been consumers receiving two bills – one from their new company and one from their old one. Given that an electricity bill is hard to read in the first place, this has the potential to cause serious headaches if companies get it wrong.

A further potential problem, similar also to what happened when the telecoms market opened up, could be the sales tactics of the competing companies trying to win your new business, or to win you back after you switch.

This was the source of enormous problems for electricity customers in the UK following their electricity deregulation, particular for older customers. Unscrupulous sales people were found to use bullying tactics to try to get customers to switch providers, or to switch back to their old supplier after moving. In some cases it was found that sales people actually forged signatures on switching forms to boost their commissions.

So what should consumers do?  Recently, we’ve had reports that Minister Eamon Ryan and Taoiseach Brian Cowen hoped to see the ESB reduce its prices in the next couple of months, possibly by up to 15%.

If you’re not keen on switching then you might still save yourself over €125 anyway by staying put. But that’s in the future. Moving today to Bord Gais Energy can save you that much immediately, and possibly a total of €250 if the ESB do drop their prices.

Check out TheBigSwith.ie or Airtricity.ie if you want to find out more, or ValueIreland.com for more research on electricity competition.

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Will Endesa bring proper electricity competition to Ireland?

In the last week or so, it’s been announced that Endesa of Spain will make further inroads into the Irish electricity with the furhter purchase of 6 power stations from the ESB. This will apparently give Endesa 14% of the Irish electricity market by capacity.

Given the current lack of competition in the Irish residential electricity market (as researched here), it can only be hoped that Endesa will actually become a real competitor to the ESB.

Though, given that the ESB sold them the power stations in the first place, that might be a long time coming, if at all.

Given that there’s zero mention at all of “ireland” on the Endesa website, that might give an indication of the low priority they give to power generation in Ireland.

So, we will probably be waiting much longer for real electricity competition – now only 4 years, almost to the day, since the market was deregulated.

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But why has Ireland the highest electricity prices?

We’re suffering the highest electricity prices in Europe according to this article last week in the Irish Times for one particular reason:

IRELAND HAS the highest electricity prices in Europe for many businesses and domestic consumers, largely due to a dependence on electricity generated from fossil fuels, according to a new report.

And not only that, prices are increasing faster in Ireland than anywhere else in Europe:

Electricity costs the Irish domestic consumer 20 per cent more than the EU average, according to the report by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), and some industrial customers are paying up to 52 per cent above the EU average.

Can I propose an alternative reason?

We have no competition for the ESB in the electricity market, and hence we’re being gouged on price because they can charge what they like, and are ably assisted by the useless Commission for Energy Regulation.

Have a look here to see the state of electricity competition in the Irish domestic market – with little or no change since 2005.

1

How to build a website about nothing!

The useless Commission for Energy Regulation has launched it’s new “customer focused website“. This website has been in development since February 2005. Can you believe it – it’s taken them 3 years to put together a website that will tell customers nothing about what they really want to know when it comes to gas and electricity.
  1. Why am I being charged so much, and who keeps allowing the suppliers increase their prices?
  2. Why isn’t there any competition in the gas or electricity markets?

It’s nearly 4 years now since the electricity market was deregulated for domestic electricity supply. And unfortunately, there’s still no competition for the ESB – our research done in 2005 is still valid today with very little need for updates (unfortunately).

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No ESB switch

Irish Independent
Orla O’Sullivan, February 17th, 2005

Value Ireland is today quoted as a “Market observer” (well, we think we are and are open to correction) in a short piece about the ESB and the opening up of the electricity market this coming Saturday. In an article not attributed to anyone, in the “Euro Notes” section, the piece reads as follows –

CONSUMERS get the right to use a potentially cheaper electricity supplier than ESB this Saturday, but it won’t be as easy as flicking a switch.

Market observers question whether it will be worthwhile for ESB competitors to cater to new customers other than businesses.

Details of the half dozen contenders to ESB can be found on the website of the Commission for Energy Regulation (www.cer.ie).

Value Ireland has carried out its own research into what the electricity market will be like for Irish consumers after market de-regulation.

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