Energy in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland domestic consumers are currently unable to choose their natural gas or electricity supplier.
There is only one electricity supplier and two natural gas suppliers, however the gas suppliers operate in different areas.
- Northern Ireland Electricity Energy (NIEE) is the only electricity supplier here;
- Phoenix Natural Gas only operates in the Greater Belfast area and Larne.
- firmus energy hold an exclusive licence to supply gas in Antrim, Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Newry, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine, Limavady and Derry.
This is despite the fact that in 2007 alternative suppliers were for the first time given the opportunity to compete in the domestic electricity and natural gas markets.
The European Union (EU) has been actively encouraging countries to introduce competition into their domestic energy markets. The EU has passed a Directive to achieve this but despite the Directive being put into effect in Northern Ireland, we are still waiting for real competition to emerge. We hope that new companies will enter the market soon so that consumers will have a choice of supplier.
The lack of competition is very frustrating for Northern Ireland consumers. The Consumer Council recognises the benefits that it could bring: more choice, a lower price and improved customer service.
The Consumer Council supports initiatives to bring competition to the domestic energy markets, so long as we can see the benefit to the consumer.
What is the single electricity market?
The Single Electricity Market (SEM) joins the wholesale electricity markets of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland together to transform how electricity is traded between generators and supply companies on the island of Ireland. It came about through an intensive partnership process involving Governments, Regulators, Suppliers and other key players on both sides of the border.
The Single Electricity Market (SEM) went live on 1 November 2007.
Will I benefit from the SEM?
The aim of the SEM is to bring lower prices, more competition and a secure supply of electricity to consumers both North and South of the border. However, it is not likely that these benefits will be enjoyed in the short term but rather in the longer term.
The Consumer Council started asking for a full cost benefit analysis of the SEM in 2001 – which would determine if the benefits of an SEM outweighed the cost involved. In 2006 the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment published a full cost benefit analysis. In this report the total costs for putting the SEM in place were estimated at £135 million but the benefits (energy efficiency savings) were estimated at £235 million.
The SEM must be continuously monitored by Regulatory authorities to check that it is on track to deliver the predicted benefits.
Related News Stories
DETI consultation on Single Electricity Market Legislation, November 2006