Pressure on home budgets fuels search for better value
By Seán McCárthaigh
The big switch is on again as electricity and gas consumers seek some respite in the face of continuing pressure on household budgets, with more than 20,000 homes a month switching electricity supplier.
Data published by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) indicates consumers are again switching energy providers as they seek further savings.
Ireland already has one of the highest switching rates among consumers anywhere in Europe, according to the CER.
It is estimated over one third of Irish homes have switched electricity supplier at least once in recent years.
Almost 40,000 consumers switched electricity suppliers each month during 2010, when energy providers engaged in a price war to win custom.
There was effectively no history of switching gas supplier until May 2010, when Electric Ireland (formerly ESB) entered the gas market.
Since then, an average of about 10,000 households have changed gas supplier each month.
The ongoing pressure on household budgets is the likely reason for the increase in switching.
The first quarter of 2012 has seen 21,600 electricity switches each month compared with 19,462 for the final quarter of 2011.
Similarly, switching rates among gas consumers increased to a monthly average of 8,900 in the first three months of 2012 compared with 8,111 in the previous quarter.
In the past 12 months Bord Gáis Energy, which will oversee the introduction of water charges, has fallen behind somewhat in both the gas and electricity markets.
The CER figures show Electric Ireland has lost 340,445 electricity consumers since Jan 2010, to the benefit of Airtricity, which added 267,141 new customers over the same period.
Bord Gáis Energy recorded a net gain of 60,436 electricity customers. In the gas market, since Jan 2010, Bord Gáis Energy has lost 173,398 customers, with Airtricity adding 120,230, while Electric Ireland gained 37,436 customers and Flogas an extra 15,177.
Consumer advisory website bonkers.ie — which is accredited by the CER for offering accurate, impartial, and independent advice on price comparisons among energy suppliers — claims households can save up to €250 per annum by switching from their current energy provider.