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Gas & Electricity

The pros and cons of pay-as-you-go electricity

Robyn Hamilton

Robyn Hamilton

Staff Writer

Prepay electricity suppliers claim they can save you money by offering you complete control over your bills, in allowing you to pay only for what you use. Sounds straightforward enough - but are these claims true for you? In this article, we look at the pros and cons of using prepay electricity.

Before we discuss specific pros and cons, let’s take a look at what exactly prepay, AKA pay-as-you-go electricity is; who supplies it; and how much it costs compared to conventional contract electricity.

What is prepay electricity?

Prepay electricity is a way to pay for electricity on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning that you only pay for exactly what you use. An electricity meter is installed in your home for free and topped up in a way not dissimilar to how you would top up a prepay phone.

How does prepay electricity work?

Very simply, once you’ve topped up your meter, your credit will be eaten up as you use electricity and, once you’re down to your last few euro, you’ll receive a warning to top up again. If you don’t top up and you’ve declined ‘emergency credit’, your electricity will stop working once your credit runs out. If this happens, all you have to do is add more credit to get up and running again.

Who supplies prepay electricity and how much does it cost?

There are currently three suppliers of prepay electricity in Ireland. These are PrePayPower.ie, Pinergy and Electric Ireland. Prices are based off of standard electricity unit rates but you’ll also have to pay a prepayment meter charge on top of your standing charge which unfortunately all adds up, meaning your electricity can end up being a lot pricier than you thought it would be.

Whether the benefits outweigh the costs of prepay electricity is something that the individual customer decides. Let’s take a look at each supplier’s services to get a better idea of how prepay electricity operates in Ireland.

PrePayPower.ie

PrePayPower.ie is one of Ireland’s leading suppliers in pay-as-you-go electricity. According to the supplier, the key benefits of choosing PrePayPower.ie are as follows; once you sign up:

  • You’ll be in total control of your electricity costs

  • You'll have one less bill to worry about with pay-as-you-go electricity

  • You’ll get fast installation at a time that suits you

  • You’ll have access to easy, hassle-free top up online, in your local shop or by phone

  • PrePayPower will never cut you off at night time or weekends

What does PrePayPower.ie charge for prepay electricity?

Here’s a breakdown of PrePayPower.ie’s charges (including VAT):

Annual Standing Charge

Annual Prepayment Charge

Cost Per Unit (kWh)

Annual PSO Levy Charge 2018/2019

Annual total for standing charge, prepayment charge + PSO levy

€195.04

€137.09 cent

19.69 cent

€47.40

€379.53

What are the key features of PrePayPower.ie’s prepay electricity service?

When you sign up with PrePayPower.ie, they will install a Smart PrePay System in your home. The system enables the customer to track and save on the electricity they use at the touch of a button. You’ll be able to see how much you're saving in terms of days, weeks and months. The Smart Control System can even tell you when appliances are left on around your home.

For a full list of the Smart Control System’s functions that help you keep track of your electricity consumption, take a look at PrePayPower.ie’s “Ways to Save” page.

PrePayPower.ie claims that an analysis of 15,422 of its customers found an average annual consumption reduction of 9% after switching to PrePayPower. Over 26% of the sample reduced their consumption by over 20% annually.

Pinergy

Pinergy prides itself on helping Irish households and businesses to become more energy efficient. Its offering includes smart energy management systems for households, personalised energy advice and monitoring software for businesses, a wide variety of innovative energy reducing solutions, in addition to pay-as-you-go electricity.

What does Pinergy charge for prepay electricity?

Annual Standing Charge

Annual Prepayment Charge

Cost Per Unit (kWh)

Annual PSO Levy Charge

Annual total for standing charge, prepayment charge + PSO levy

€145.97

€137.09 cent

21.42 cent

€47.40

€330.63

What are the key benefits of choosing Pinergy for prepay electricity?

Pinergy claims with its In-Home Display (IHD) and Smart App, you will be able to monitor and control your electricity usage and reduce your costs by up to 20%. This figure is based on international market research which indicates that the use of smart meter technology can contribute to electricity consumption reduction of up to 19.5%.

Find out more about the IHD in the video below:

Electric Ireland

Electric Ireland, Ireland’s largest supplier of domestic electricity, also supplies pay-as-you-go electricity. It currently offers a €60 cashback incentive for existing customers and €150 for brand new customers who sign up to its prepay service.

What does Electric Ireland charge for prepay electricity?   

Annual Standing Charge

Annual Prepayment Charge

Cost Per Unit (kWh)

Annual PSO Levy Charge

Annual total for standing charge, prepayment charge + PSO levy

€161.23

€137.09 

19.74 cent

€47.40

€345.72

What are the key benefits of choosing Electric Ireland for prepay electricity?

If you sign up today to Electric Ireland’s Smarter Pay-As-You-Go Electricity plan, the supplier will offer you €150 cashback if you're a new customer. Make sure you check out our guide on how to spot when cashback offers are good value!

With Smarter Pay-As-You-Go you can track your electricity usage and spend from your monitor. So, as with the other suppliers on the list, you’ll know how much electricity you’re using, and how much you’re spending on electricity, at all times.

You can track your electricity usage by the hour, as well as by the day, month and year, so you can control your costs and budget your money. You can SMS your monitor to check your balance, and you can also use your monitor to check your carbon emissions, so you can be kind to the environment too.

There is no installation fee and the meter is free.

Who to choose?

Check out the table below to compare each of the three suppliers like-for-like. All figures shown include VAT.

Charges

PrePayPower.ie

Pinergy

Electric Ireland

Annual standing charge

€195.04

€145.97

€161.23

Annual prepayment meter charge

€137.09

€137.09

€137.09

Introductory cashback offer

None

None

€150

Cost per unit (kWh)

19.69 cent

21.42 cent

19.74 cent

Annual PSO levy

€47.40

€47.40

€47.40

Year one cost (based on national average electricity consumption figures)

€1,206.60

€1,229.99

€1,024.68* 

*Includes €150 cashback offer for new customers

Despite claims that prepay energy can save you money, the cost of prepayment charges and higher unit rate prices mean you can actually end up paying a lot more than if you were getting your electricity through conventional methods - especially if you take discounted rates into consideration.

For example, if you were to choose prepay electricity with PrePayPower.ie over a normal billpay contract with Iberdrola (which has one of the cheapest discounted rates on the market right now) you’d end up paying around €350 more in your first year, based on average electricity consumption figures. 

It begs the question, what are the pros of prepay electricity and why would you choose it over regular contracts, which as the numbers suggest, are often cheaper?

Let’s find out…

The pros of prepay electricity

Budget more effectively

As previously mentioned, prepay electricity offers the user complete control over their electricity which has a lot of benefits especially for those trying to stick to a budget. When you know exactly how much electricity you are using at any given time you can manage your habits accordingly to keep costs down.

Energy efficiency

Prepay electricity is not only great for helping you to identify electricity guzzlers, it’s also great for the environment as it encourages you to be vigilant and only use it as you need it, thus reducing electricity consumption. There’s nothing like the power being shut off to remind you to turn off lights and TVs when you leave the room!  

No more shock bills

Prepay electricity offers you complete freedom when it comes to bills. You pay when you want to pay. Anytime, anywhere, meaning that there are no more horrible shock bills to throw off your budgeting.

The cons of prepay electricity

The obvious con here is the extra expense, not to mention the inconvenience of having to top up on a regular basis, lest you have your power shut off unexpectedly. Ultimately, you pay for the privilege of not having to worry about your bills, safe in the knowledge that you will always be on top of them and in control.  

Run a full comparison before switching 

As discussed, prepay electricity might be a very suitable option for people who like to be on top of their budgeting and are willing to economise when it comes to their electricity usage.

At the end of the day, choosing prepay electricity is a lifestyle choice that will depend on your own personal needs and habits. Before you decide to switch always be sure to run a full electricity comparison to make sure you’re on the best deal for you.  

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