Price war looms as sixth energy supplier enters Northern Ireland market
A price war is coming down the line for the electricity market as the number of major suppliers in Northern Ireland doubles to six.
Further sparks may fly as even more are expected to set up.
Electric Ireland yesterday became the sixth big supplier for homeowners, creating 45 new jobs in a total investment of £5m.
Click Energy and Open Electric are the other new arrivals - though Open Electric has yet to disclose its tariffs. They join established providers SSE Airticity and market leader Power NI - as well as Budget Energy in third place.
SSE Airtricity has operated in Northern Ireland since 2010, three years after the market was opened up to competition, and now has a 24% customer share. That compares to a 68% share by Power NI and a 7% share for Budget Energy. No market share figures are available for the new arrivals.
Economist John Simpson welcomed the arrival of a sixth supplier, though he warned: "The more suppliers you have, the greater the risk of a supplier going out of business and causing a panic among their customers."
However, a spokesman for the Utility Regulator, which regulates the largest supplier, Power NI, said a large number of suppliers did not pose risks. "There is no evidence to suggest that there is more risk for consumers from more entrants and should there ever be a situation where a supplier exits the market, customers are automatically protected by being allocated to the regulated supplier, which is Power NI."
Richard Williams, head of energy at the Consumer Council, said having a range of suppliers was good news for householders.
"Consumers can see real benefits from the increase in choice and competition in the electricity market, following the entry of new suppliers Click Energy NI and Open Electric, as well as the full scale entry of Electric Ireland.
"We encourage customers to check if they are getting the best possible deal. To help with this the Consumer Council has on our website an electricity and gas price comparison tool and a simple guide to switching supplier."
Open Electric launched in June and has not revealed its tariff.
Aodhan O'Donnell, a former head of the Consumer Council and now the owner of consumer advisor Power to Switch, said: "This is great news for competition."