Friday 28 April 2017

Household energy bills to fall as ESB sets own prices

DON LAVERY

HOMEowners can look forward from next month to more competition and cheaper electricity prices after the ESB was allowed to set its own prices.

The ESB, now to be known as Electric Ireland, yesterday promised to "be in there competing and giving more choice" after the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) said it was deregulating the market for residential customers after around one million customers left the ESB for other suppliers.

Over the past two years, around 40pc of all Irish electricity customers have switched suppliers, one of the highest switching rates seen in Europe, the commission said.

The ESB, which has now less than 60pc of the market, would not comment on reports that prices could drop by as much as 10pc after the commission decision, which allows them to match or even undercut rivals from April 4.

But it said it would be keen to put an end to the 5,000 people a week who have been switching from the ESB, and win back some market share.

"Deregulation of prices will provide further choice in the long run. The CER is committed to building on this progress with detailed measures to protect consumers and support the competitive market," said chairman Michael Tutty.

It is understood some of these measures will allow consumers to compare tariffs and prices provided by competitors in the electricity market such as ESB, Bord Gais and Airtricity. Bord Gais has already poached around half a million customers from the ESB. The ESB is sending letters to customers under the joint ESB Electric Ireland brand and will move to the sole Electric Ireland brand name next year.

The company will also enter the residential gas market within weeks, allowing them to compete for dual fuel customers.

While the price war may escalate after April 4, international fuel costs remain the main influence on Irish electricity prices and the volatile situation in the Middle East is being closely watched.

In recent years Bord Gais promised to undercut ESB prices by at least 10 per cent, while Airtricity offered savings of up to 13 per cent. The Consumers' Association of Ireland's chief executive Dermott Jewell said it was a good day for consumers.

"We have waited a long time for this, and for much of that time the ESB was saying if the regulator removed its shackles it would be able to aggressively compete on price."

Sunday Independent

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