THE domestic energy market is getting a much-needed kick up the behind now that Bord Gais has been sold and with the arrival of Energia.
SINEAD RYAN – CONSUMER CHAMPION
Never heard of it? Well, it's had business customers up to now, but they include all the mobile networks in the country, the DART, public lighting and 60pc of schools and colleges nationwide.
So, suffice to say you can probably trust it to look after your leccy at home.
But is it worth the switch? This week I'm looking at its bundled packages - electricity and gas together - and comparing them with Bord Gais, Electric Ireland and Airtricity (which, confusingly, has changed its name to SSE Airtricity).
In my comparison Energia wins out, but bear in mind that your own circumstances might be different. Separate suppliers for electricity and gas might provide better options, including the competitive Flogas.
Energy bills are one of the biggest in any household budget. Discounts are valuable, but signing up for a year means you have to be sure you've plumped for the right package.
Energia claims you'll save 15pc, but I asked the real expert, Simon Moynihan of Bonkers.ie, an independently accredited comparison site.
"We've taken their launch numbers, analysed them, and on the face of it, Energia's new plans look very good," he said.
"Their electricity plan is the second-cheapest out there, their gas plan is also the second-cheapest and their dual fuel deal squeaks in as the cheapest option available, saving around €271 per year off standard rates - which shouldn't be sniffed at." But the savings are not for everyone. If you use quite a lot of power, Energia's tariffs will probably match or better what's out there.
However, households conserving energy wisely may find that they're better off elsewhere.
Electric Ireland, for example, has very new competitive tariffs for new or returning customers this week for electricity.
If you're going to save in other ways, here are my tips:
Pay by direct debit and opt for paperless billing. Most providers also offer a budget payment plan to split costs over 12 months.
Are you on the most efficient plan? If your tariff is incorrect, you'll pay more. Call the provider and ask if there's a cheaper rate.
If you're a new customer, ask whether you have to pay a security deposit.
You will have to sign up for a contract - but is it one or two years? Ask.
There's no better way of getting your bill down than keeping your usage low and your house energy efficient. See seai.ie for ways to do this.
By the way, Energia's new TV ads provided much hilarity at the launch and will be winging their way to a TV station near you shortly.