Consumers to win out as energy battle hots up

By Scott Millar

CONSUMERS are set to be the big winners with a price war between energy companies competing for winter business.

The battle went up a notch yesterday with supplier, Airtricity, announcing a new ‘Biggest Save’ discount campaign. 

From the beginning of next month, the company is guaranteeing home energy consumers a 12-month fixed-price 6% saving on regulated ESB unit rates along with a 20% saving for gas that tracks regulated Bord Gáis Energy standard tariff unit rates, if they sign up to a 12-month gas and electricity contract. 

An Airtricity spokesman said the offer would result in consumers with an average monthly spend of €90 each for gas and electricity making an annual €234 saving. Consumers who agree to the new price rates will also have to agree to receive all bills online and pay by direct debit. 

Since the break-up of ESB’s monopoly, more than 600,000 people have switched suppliers. Bord Gáis offers up to 14% off the ESB tariff for those who buy gas and electricity and sign up for a direct debit. 

A Bord Gáis spokesman said the company "operates in a regulated market, our prices are set by the regulator so there will be no changes to our residential gas tariff at the moment." 

He added that is was the company’s view that the residential energy market in both electricity and gas should be deregulated at the same time after major changes in the last 18 months. 

The ESB is to be allowed to set its own prices once its market share falls below 60%. The company is expected to offer big discounts on both electricity and gas once it is allowed to openly compete with other suppliers. 

Airtricity was taken over by Scottish and Southern in 2008 and currently has 330,000 residential customers. 

Airtricity CEO Kevin Greenhorn said Airtricity plans to supply 500,000 customers by 2011. He added that this would be two years ahead of the company’s original customer targets. 

Meanwhile, the National Consumer Agency (NCA) has found major regional differences in the price of home heating oil. 

A survey of prices charged across the country for the supply and delivery of 1,000 litres of kerosene found prices vary by up to €80. 

Consumers in Ennis, Co Clare, buying on the day of the survey — September 24, 2009 — would, on average, have paid €696 while the lowest average price, €655, was recorded in Drogheda, Co Louth. Nationally, the lowest price, €640, was recorded in the Sligo and Galway County North areas, but the highest price quoted was in Dublin South, where one supplier was charging €720. 

NCA Director of Research, Policy and Communications Maria Hurley said: "The survey shows that consumers can make savings on their home heating costs with just a couple of quick and simple phone calls." 

Possible savings 

Prices for an urban residential household which consumes 3,097 kWh of electricity per year. 

* ESB cost €600. 

* Airtricity (lowest price) €535.57. 

* Bord Gáis (lowest price) €535.88. 

(Prices from bonkers.ie)

Read more: http://www.examiner.ie/ireland/consumers-to-win-out-as-energy-battle-hots-up-131498.html#ixzz11V2a8x2G



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