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Sundayindependent

One annoying door knock could help you snap out of your energy-switching inertia

If you haven't switched electricity suppliers for a while, now might be a good time, thanks to the entry of another new supplier and more competitive tariffs in the last few months. - writes John Cradden

Panda Power is the latest entrant to the domestic electricity supply market, but as well as offering competitive tariffs, it is also likely to appeal to the eco-minded among us.

The firm is offering new customers an 18pc discount on their standard electricity unit rate of 15.47cent per kWh, with an annual standing charge of €158.20. Assuming the national average usage, this is works out at some €160 a year cheaper than a customer on Electric Ireland's standard domestic tariff.

"Panda Power entered with the best electricity pricing in the market," said Simon Moynihan of price comparison site, Bonkers.ie.

"Despite being beaten shortly after their launch by Energia's new 'Cheep-Purr" deal, they remain very competitive and are within just €8 of the best offer available.”

Energia recently cut its unit rates for electricity by 2pc, although it was the last large supplier to announce price cuts, following Bord Gais Energy, SSEAirtricity and Electric Ireland's cuts earlier this year.

But it also took the opportunity to launch an introductory 18pc discount on its standard electricity rates for new customers, as long as they sign up for 12 months and use direct debit and online billing. The offer ends this month.

The offer coincides with the release of figures from Eurostat, the EU statistics office, which showed that Ireland is the third most expensive country for electricity in Europe, behind Denmark and Germany.

Ireland was also listed as having the third highest increase in household electricity prices between the second half of 2013 and the second half of 2014, experiencing a price increase of 5.4pc, just behind Luxembourg at 5.6pc and France at 10.2pc.

Owned by a company best known for waste recycling services, Panda Power is entering as a provider using only 100pc renewable sources.

"They are the first company to do this, although other suppliers do offer green tariffs, generate green energy and have a reasonable proportion of their electricity fuel mix classified as green,” said Moynihan.

"Panda will not be completely recognised for this until July 2016 when the next CER (Commission for Energy Regulation) fuel mix report comes out, which is looked at retroactively”

Moynihan also notes how Panda is managing to offer green energy at such a competitive price. “This is a first in Ireland also. Traditionally in Ireland, and in the UK, green-energy tariffs are more expensive than the best discounted deals.”

If you are one of Panda's 150,000 domestic-waste customers (who are heavily concentrated in Dublin and parts of Leinster), you can expect to get the hard sell on Panda Power soon.

You might dread the task of having to polite but firmly decline the biddings of those cheerful but persistent door-to-door chuggers acting for the company, or any of the other many electricity suppliers bidding for switchers, but it turns out that most of us are not immune to their charms.

"The recently published CER survey on attitudes and experiences in the electricity and gas markets found that 55pc of electricity and 65pc of gas switches take place on the doorstep, so it is a very powerful method of acquiring customers," said Moynihan. “For that reason, I don't see it slowing down any time soon.”

Perhaps these switchers also know something that the more hesitant among us don't. "If you want to keep your bills down, best practice is to switch every 12 months," said Moynihan. “That's because the Irish market generally works on an introductory discount system. Across most suppliers, new customers are offered substantial discounts, but these only last for 12 months, then customers are moved onto standard rates. “

Also, suppliers do not notify customers of the change to standard, so the onus is on the customer to be proactive about changing again."

And you may as well switch gas while you’re at it, particularly since almost all electricity suppliers also offer gas.

Panda Power has no plans to enter the gas market, but Moynihan notes that its potential customer base in Dublin and Leinster are on the gas network for the most part, so “it could be a strategy they are considering".

Having said that, according to the Bonkers site, the cheapest possible electricity and gas is actually from separate suppliers (in this case Energia and Flogas) rather than a “dual fuel offer from a single supplier.

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