There's some rare good news on the horizon for Northern Ireland householders and small businesses after an announcement that electricity prices are about to drop.
A 14.1% reduction in power prices due to come into effect in October will mean that hundreds of thousands of Power NI customers will save £83 a year .
Domestic electricity prices here will soon be below the Great Britain average, around 15% cheaper than current Republic of Ireland prices and well below the European average.
The announcement came a day after UK energy firm SSE said that its electricity and gas prices will rise by 9% on average from October 15.
Last year Power NI’s bills increased by 18.6%.
The average annual bill will be £505 from October, down from £564, thanks to a 17% reduction in generation prices.
The generation costs account for almost 65% of the current domestic bill. Coal and carbon costs in particular have fallen in the last year, by 21% and 39% respectively.
The price drop is in addition to a new 6% discount announced by the company for online billing.
Stephen McCully, managing director of Power NI, added that as well as the price drop, a recent Consumer Council report showed that Power NI had only one formal complaint in 12 months.
“We’ve listened to our customers and we know that great service and better value are more important than ever,” he said.
“So we’re delighted to introduce this price reduction.
“This price cut sees our customers benefiting from lower world fuel costs and savings from our increased efficiencies.”
A new online discount of 6%, up to a total of £55 a year, is available to Power NI customers who opt for Energy Online, an online billing service. There is also an existing 2.5% discount for Power NI Keypad customers.
After 26 months of active competition in the energy market, Power NI now has 675,000 domestic and business customers — around 84% of the market — with nearest rival Airtricity capturing 14%.
Budget Energy serves the remaining 2%. The total is made up of 640,000 home customers, 28,000 business customers and 7000 farming customers.
The other power companies are expected to make an announcement on their prices in the coming days
The Utility Regulator has said that the reduction is a visible sign that regulation is working for Northern Ireland consumers.
“The announcement is good news for consumers,” Shane Lynch said.
“I’m delighted that regulated electricity prices are reducing for domestic and small business consumers.
“The reduction represents a saving of £83 per year for a typical domestic consumer. This shows that our regulation is working effectively for consumers.
“Other suppliers in the market are now likely to review their prices in light of this announcement.
“Consumers are free to choose their electricity supplier and I would encourage them to explore the choices available to them.
“As always, we will continue to monitor wholesale fuel costs and any significant changes in these costs that could result in a tariff review.”
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) welcomed the announce- ment of a 14% Electricity Price reduction by Power NI for small business and domestic customers.
NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “This is clearly good news for both our members and hard-pressed working families.
“This reduction is very timely given the trend in recent years of ever rising energy costs on small businesses. It also reduces pressure on disposable income of working families which in turn may result in a small increase in consumer spend.
“NIIRTA is committed to working with all the major energy companies to ensure that our members become more energy efficient to further reduce costs and invest in sustainable energy.”
Domestic electricity charges, including VAT, for 3,300 units for standard tariffs:
Power NI £505
GB (main suppliers) average £510
EU average (15 countries) £554
RoI Electric Ireland (urban/rural average) £605
Recent pricing changes: 2012: 14.1% decrease (effective Oct 2012) 2011: 18.6% increase (effective Oct 2011)2010: prices frozen