Regulator backs smart meter move
Properties in Northern Ireland could be fitted with special electricity meters as part of new moves to preserve energy, the utility regulator has said.
Better insulated buildings and smart meters, which tell users when they are wasting money, can make a difference with costs rising, Iain Osborne said in his annual report.
Although prices came down last year, the watchdog saved householders £210 million through close scrutiny of suppliers.
Chief executive Mr Osborne warned: "Although energy prices have fallen recently the long-term trend is likely to be upwards. It is more important than ever that we protect the most vulnerable consumers.
"This is an area where new thinking is required."
The regulator-sponsored electricity provider NIE's has trialled smart meters to tell people when they are using energy, for example leaving the light on in an empty room.
It is part of a Green New Deal coalition which is looking for new ways to accelerate the modernisation of buildings and make them more energy efficient.
A consultation on the affordability tariff, which supports less well-off energy users, was launched by the regulator who is also considering how people can cope with debt.
Mr Osborne added: "Regulation is a technical task and we are not responsible for policy but we do try vigorously to catalyse new thinking and fresh solutions."
The organisation has saved consumers £210 million since 2006. Its budget for next year is 9% lower than last year.