New gas supplier Equo Energy to target NI businesses if licence approved
Northern Ireland's gas market looks set to get a new player, it can be revealed.
Equo Energy, which has an office in Belfast, is submitting a licence application to become a gas supplier in Northern Ireland.
The company has said it will seek to target business customers first, before looking at the domestic market.
However, it said its ambitions in Northern Ireland were modest.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Graham Wright, head of operations for Equo, said he would hope to be operating in Northern Ireland as early as the start of next year.
"Equo is a new venture all together and we are looking at going into the market in Northern Ireland," he said.
Mr Wright has been working in the energy brokerage market for the last 21 years. The company currently has a small customer base elsewhere in the UK.
"We intend to be very small and very steady, to learn the ropes. We are not looking to break any new records," he said.
"(It will be) a few small suppliers - initially, businesses such as hotels, spas, and just getting a presence in Northern Ireland as a supplier of low-cost gas."
He said the business would "gradually" build up from there, before looking at targeting the domestic market.
"We are looking at the early part of next year, if the licence is granted," Mr Wright said.
"I don't know how we would compete on price, but we are aiming to be a low-cost provider.
"We would like to supply domestic in the end, but the first couple of years would be focusing on business."
It's understood the Utility Regulator will now consult on the awarding of the licence.
If successful, Equo would join other gas firms which operate in Northern Ireland.
SSE Airtricity, Electric Ireland, Vaya, Firmus, Go Power Energy and Flogas each supply business customers in the greater Belfast area, while SSE Airtricity and Firmus currently sell gas to domestic customers in Belfast and in Larne.
And domestic customers in the so-called '10 towns' areas, which include Ballymoney, Ballymena and Londonderry, also get gas from Firmus.
Phoenix Natural Gas is the largest gas distribution network in Northern Ireland, but does not sell directly to customers.
It has also announced Hillsborough has become the second town to connect to the natural gas network as part of the business's roll-out across Co Down.
A total of 2,200 properties are due to have gas available to them by 2018.
Michael McKinstry, Phoenix Natural Gas group chief executive, said: "I am pleased to mark the connection of our second town in the build programme, following the completion of works in Ballygowan where over 1,000 properties have access to the gas network."