Belfast Telegraph

Budget Energy's profits hit £3.6m in the past year: Firm expands into Republic before targeting rest of UK

By John Mulgrew

Electricity firm Budget Energy has seen its pre-tax profits skyrocket to more than £3.6m - just five years after setting up.

Profits increased five-fold in the space of a year at the electricity business, which is run by Eleanor McEvoy.

It now has 61,500 customers here and is currently expanding into the Republic, before taking on the rest of the UK. Turnover at Budget Energy is up around 13%, rising to £34m in the year to June 2015.

Its success comes as business supplier Vayu — which is backed by mining giant Glencore — announces its entry into the Northern Ireland market.

Ms McEvoy says she is confident she can turn Budget Energy into a £100m turnover business in another five years.

This is her third major business, after starting out with a vending machine firm and then Phonecard Warehouse — a pre-paid phone firm which was sold in 2006 with a turnover of €50m (£38m). And it was selling pre-paid top-ups for mobile phones that got her into the electricity market.

“Northern Ireland has the most advanced and highest number of pre-paid customers of pre-paid electricity,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

More than 300,000 customers in Northern Ireland use pre-paid power, including around 80% of Budget Energy’s base. 

She said she wanted to make energy “more transparent and take out the confusion where people don’t understand energy”.

And the firm wanted to “always stay true to keeping our prices as low as possible”. But she said Budget is now growing to include other sectors, such as businesses and farmers.

The firm is based in Londonderry but its customers are right across Northern Ireland, with the largest proportion in Belfast.

Budget Energy is currently the cheapest tariff on the market, according to Ms McEvoy — who’s running the firm with husband, Londonderry man George — and is now the third biggest provider here. And she describes Budget as the “Ryanair of the energy business”. Budget now employs around 65 staff. She says the company’s success is down to her own talent, and sticking to tight margins and a low-cost base.

“Every single penny is a prisoner when it comes to me,” she said.

“If you compare us to someone like Power NI, they are big, huge machines, we can move and change quickly, they can’t.

“We’ve made significant inroads, but we have an awful lot to do. Competition only opened in 2007, and in 2011 competition arrived in keypad — competition isn’t there as long as everyone thinks.”

And long-running low input costs, especially low oil prices, have helped keep electricity prices down.

Asked if the speedy growth can continue, she said: “It will get harder to grow. I’d like 120,000 domestic customers and probably a 5% stake in the business market in Northern Ireland.”

Budget Energy now has a licence to operate in the Republic, and could be up-and-running by the summer. Budget was also just named as Northern Ireland’s top energy company, according to an annual survey from Which?

And as prices remain stable, Ms McEvoy says Budget will be cutting its prices in the spring.

It’s also growing its green energy credentials. It currently has around 14% of its supply in green energy. And in the next five years she’s confident the business could triple turnover to £100m.

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t keep this growth rate. You’ll have years where it goes up and down, or doesn’t grow as fast, but my ambition is 110,000 to 120,000 customers,” she added.

Belfast Telegraph