Cheaper bills are on way as ESB sets own prices
HOUSEHOLDERS can look forward to cheaper energy after ESB was given the green light to set its own prices.
ESB, under the new name Electric Ireland, will operate in the newly deregulated electricity market and will also enter the residential gas market within weeks -- using the existing gas pipe network.
The company said it could not be specific yet about the prices that would be on offer from April. However, given the competition in the market, which includes a major British supplier Airtricity, an ESB spokesman said "we will have to up our game and demonstrate we can provide value".
The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) yesterday formally announced it was deregulating the electricity market after one million electricity customers switched suppliers since the market opened up to competition two years ago.
CER said deregulation of prices -- which means the ESB no longer has to get approval to raise or lower tariffs -- would take effect from April 4.
"Deregulation of prices will help provide further choice and competitive prices in the long run," said CER chairman Michael Tutty.
ESB now has less than 60pc of the electricity market.
The firm said yesterday it had already begun sending letters to customers under the joint ESB Electric Ireland brand and will move to the sole Electric Ireland brandname next year.
It also confirmed it would enter the residential gas market within weeks -- which analysts say will allow them to compete for prized dual-fuel customers who sign up for both gas and electricity.
A company spokesman said the ESB "looks forward to providing greater choice and value".
"This is a significant milestone for ESB, enabling us to actively compete in the residential market," added its chief executive Padraig McManus.
However, Bord Gais, which has successfully poached half a million electricity customers from ESB, claimed it would now be at a disadvantage because its gas prices were still regulated, meaning it could not offer the same kind of discounts on dual fuel as its rivals.
It said the case for also deregulating its prices was compelling and should take place without delay so all companies were on a level playing field.
Bord Gais still controls around 80pc of the residential gas market, but has lost a significant number of customers to Airtricity and Flogas; and CER has not yet indicated when it will deregulate this sector.
ESB is required to change its name because of its long historical association for householders as the sole supplier of electricity in Ireland, which the EU deems to be an unfair advantage in a deregulated market.