Today Airtricity announced their plans to enter the domestic natural gas market, bringing with it the creation of over 200 jobs. The job creation is newsworthy in itself and very welcome to our economy; Airtricity should be applauded for this alone.
Airtricity's entry into the gas market will also have a huge impact on Irish consumers' energy choices and the purpose of this post is to explore how the market may develop in the months ahead.
First off, Airtricity are not the first to offer an alternative to Bord Gais when it comes to supplying your natural gas at home. Flogas have been supplying natural gas to domestic customers since October 13th last year, when they announced 9% discounts on the Bord Gais rates to domestic customers.
Secondly, Airtricity will take your natural gas application starting today - meaning they more than simply announced their intention to enter domestic gas, they are doing it already.
Third, and most interestingly (if energy prices can peak your interest), this is more than a play to win you as a natural gas customer - this is a directly targeted attack on the customer base which Bord Gais has won in the past 12 months with their Big Switch campaign. You see, you cannot get just gas from Airtricity - you are required to also switch your electricity supply to them if you want to avail of their gas offering - theirs is no single fuel option, you must get dual-fuel.
Why is this interesting? Well our sources tell us that Airtricity, owned by UK group Scottish & Southern Energy, are offering this dual-fuel only option to not only win gas customers from Bord Gais, but to also take away their newly acquired electricity customers at the same time!
And even more interesting is that Bord Gais is price regulated for gas, just as the ESB is price regulated for electricity, so they won't be able to adjust their gas prices to compete with Airtricity until the regulator lets them.
So, for each gas customer Airtricity wins, they will also win an electricity customer from Bord Gais too - a customer that Bord Gais won from ESB in the first place! Certainly a strong move tactically.
That's all good news, right? The choice is now clear? Well not quite. With all headline offers, there are some caveats, terms & conditions which must be met before you can achieve the headline savings rate. How you pay your bill, whether you manage your account online and now if you have both gas & electricity with the same company will all determine which is the optimum supplier, or mix of suppliers for your energy needs.
One thing is clear though - we now have the ability to look for a better deal on our electricity and our gas accounts, combined. If you don't want to combine your accounts you can still achieve the maximum savings, but by separating your suppliers. As with all offerings of this type however, the discounts will come to an end. But if history has anything to offer, it is that there will be new deals when that time comes. In our case it will likely be in the guise of a rebranded ESB, offering both gas and electricity and competing without price regulation on either.
Welcome to the future of your energy supply - from here it can get a lot more interesting, but a lot more confusing too.
bonkers.ie has been working on a new dual fuel calculator which we will launch in the coming days to take some of the confusion away from calculating your potential bills by hand. For now, you can visit our energy centre to check your electricity prices.