Tuesday 20 August 2019

Your Money: Take the heat out of energy bills

New suppliers entering the market means you should shop around for best deal

Cold war: Poor weather lately has meant our bills have stayed high
Cold war: Poor weather lately has meant our bills have stayed high
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

It never rains but it pours. The weather certainly hasn't been great so far this summer, especially after the heatwave that was 2018, so our energy bills are still as high as ever.

The good news is that the Commission for Energy Regulation has recommended a halving of the PSO (Public Service Obligation) levy which pays for renewable energy subsidies for the 2019/20 year, reducing it from €47.40 to €26.15.

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This is a bill none of us can do anything about, so any reduction is welcome. A further positive is the entry of a new competitor to the market - Spanish giant Iberdrola, which owns Scottish Power among others - may well transform the whole area of renewable energy and is making a good start by offering two fully-green electricity plans to Irish customers.

There are now no fewer than 11 electricity suppliers which is fantastic for competition, but only, obviously, if people vote with their direct debits and shop around!

Iberdrola is also committing to investing €100m in wind farms; it already owns six here, and will offer gas to customers by the end of the year. With 100m customers worldwide, its sheer size should result in lower energy costs all round.

A price comparison by Switcher.ie (see panel) has found their prices are already making a difference, but compare in the round - that is, by building in discounts for new customers, if available, first year business etc.

Given we pay the 4th highest prices in Europe because of the amount of energy we need to import, renewable products have become cheaper compared to traditional supplies.

Electricity prices rose 7.8pc last year and carbon tax is likely to rise sharply in the budget come October, so if you're hoping to save, now is the time to act.

Commenting on the move, Eoin Clarke, Managing Director of Switcher.ie, says: "This is great news for consumers and the market. Households will now have even more choice, while the extra competition will gee up existing suppliers, encouraging them to offer even better service and value for money."

In terms of what Iberdrola is offering, 100pc green energy plans will absolutely appeal to most people, particularly with climate change and the environment being such hot topics. The tariffs on offer are very competitive and offer good value for money from an already long-established and trusted name.

While one plan is variable, the other, Green Fixed 2020, also offers the reassurance of fixing your energy price for a year. Given the way prices have rocketed this last year or so, this will be an attractive option for many and will provide a bit of breathing space for cash-strapped householders".

Fixing prices isn't new - it's common around Europe, but it has only been a development of the Irish market in the last year - BEenergy offers it on its 2-year deal, for instance, but there's a €100 exit fee if you break the contract early.

Bord Gais and Electric Ireland allow you spread payments across the year also - it's not the same as fixing the rate, as it can increase (or in rare instances, decrease!). However, it does smooth out repayments, so you're not hit unduly in winter months.

If Iberdrola's new customers commit to paperless billing, a one-year contract and a direct debit, like other providers, comparison site Bonkers.ie says they can save 23pc off the standard tariff, which translates to €184 per year.

Market advocates like One Big Switch say that scouring the market for a switch is the best way of keeping prices low.

Don't forget that if you use a Pay as you Go meter, you will end up paying more, despite the convenience.

Irish Independent

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