ENERGY company Airtricity has turned up the heat on Bord Gais by offering a discount of 20pc on domestic gas supplies.
The move comes as consumption of gas by homeowners is set to surge during the coming cold winter months.
The big discount on gas prices is only available to those who also move over to Airtricity for their electricity supplies.
Up until now, Airtricity was offering a 10pc discount on the gas prices charged by semi-state supplier Bord Gais for those who switch to it for both gas and electricity.
On top of this, Airtricity had been discounting the ESB electricity tariff by 13pc.
It has now cut the discount it is offering on the ESB's prices to 6pc -- but it has doubled the discount on gas supplies.
Yesterday the company claimed that the combined discount of 26pc would mean a bigger overall energy cost saving for households who sign up for both electricity and gas supplies with Airtricity.
The company said the average family which uses both gas and electricity would see its annual energy bill of €2,160 dropping by €234.
Owned by Scottish and Southern, Airtricity has already won over 330,000 residential customers. The Scottish company paid €2bn for Airtricity when it bought the company formerly run by businessman Eddie O'Connor in 2008.
Yesterday it unveiled former Republic of Ireland soccer manager Jack Charlton as part of its marketing campaign in a bid to sign up more residential energy users. The move is seen as a significant step-up in the energy price war.
Those who want to avail of the new bundled deal will have to sign a 12-month contract. Up to now, those switching from the ESB or Bord Gais have been able to avoid signing up for long-term contracts.
Simon Moynihan of independent price comparison website Bonkers.ie said the new Airtricity offering was a good deal for consumers.
"It is unusual for an energy supplier to lower gas prices coming into winter," he said.
In Britain, discounts on gas prices are usually kept until the spring when families use less gas.
He stressed that those who want to avail of the new discount deal will have to agree to receive both gas and electricity supplies from Airtricity, receive bills online and pay by direct debit.
Consumers will also have to sign a one-year contract, and will be hit by a €100 penalty if they decide they want to switch back to their old supplier.
He said the lower prices would amount to around €190 a year on gas and €44 a year on electricity for those who sign up.
More than 600,000 people have switched from the ESB for their electricity supplies. Bord Gais offers up to 14pc off the ESB tariff for those who get gas and electricity from it and sign up for a direct debit.
Irish-owned gas supplier Flogas, which is owned by stock market quoted DCC, offers an 11pc discount on Bord Gais's gas prices.
The ESB is to be allowed to set its own prices once its market share falls below 60pc. It is expected to offer big discounts on both electricity and gas to consumers once its dominance of the electricity market has been watered down.