An electricity and gas firm has begun supplying big businesses as it becomes the first newcomer to Northern Ireland's '10 towns' gas supply network.
Airtricity, part of Scotland-based SSE plc, announced it had secured Coleraine Borough Council and cigarette factory Gallaher Ltd in Ballymena as its first large energy user (LEU) gas customers in the '10 towns' outside Belfast.
The gas supply network for the '10 towns' – from Londonderry to Newry – was previously limited to network operator firmus.
But competition now applies to large energy users such as big businesses, while the markets for smaller businesses and domestic customers open in 2015. Airtricity corporate sales manager Andrew Greer said: "Competition is healthy for customers, for the market overall and for the Northern Ireland economy."
CBI director Nigel Smyth said: "The CBI is a strong advocate of encouraging more competition."
Bryan Gray, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Manufacturing Group, also welcomed competition in the network.