THE State's largest supplier of gas to householders will be able to set its own prices within months.
CHARLIE WESTON PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR
The move could see gas prices coming down by €150 a year, and is set to add to pressure for more reductions in the cost of gas and electricity for families.
Experts said Bord Gais would be free to set its own gas prices by the spring.
The latest good news for householders comes just a week ahead of the launch of gas provider Energia.
Energia will offer families the opportunity to save up to €300 on their annual gas and electricity bills.
And Electric Ireland, which has more than one million domestic customers, has told energy experts it will match price discounts being offered by the new player in the market.
A spokesman for Electric Ireland, the retail operation of the ESB, said: "Electric Ireland regularly reviews its price offerings, the details of which are confidential prior to announcing to customers."
But it is understood the company is planning to launch new discounts for householders who get electricity and gas from it, just weeks after pushing up the price of electricity.
Airtricity and Flogas are also understood to be planning to lower their prices to match Energia's move into the residential market.
Now it has emerged that Bord Gais is close to be able to set its own prices for gas.
At the moment, the semi-state company is regulated for gas supply, which means it has to get permission from the energy regulator before it can change its prices, Simon Moynihan at price comparison site Bonkers.ie said.
But its share of the residential gas market is set to fall below 60pc by the end of the summer, which will give it the freedom to compete with the other players on gas prices, Mr Moynihan said. He predicted price cuts of €150 for families.
Bord Gais must end up with a market share of less than 60pc before the regulator will grant it permission to set its own gas prices. It is now on course to reach that figure by April.
A spokesman for the energy regulator said a decision on when Bord Gais would be free to set gas prices would be taken soon.
Bord Gais is the only supplier left in the energy market that has to get regulatory approval before its can change its pricing.
ESB's dominance of residential electricity has weakened to the point that it can set its own prices.
Energia – which is owned by Northern power company Viridian and has two generating stations in Dublin – is expected to undercut Electric Ireland's standard electricity tariff by as much as €150 a year.
And it is set to be at least €140 a year cheaper on gas than the standard offering from the largest gas player, Bord Gais.
This means that consumers who agree to take both gas and electricity from Energia could benefit from savings of €300 a year. Householders will have to sign up for direct debits and agree to have their bills sent to them electronically.