New electricity supplier vows to spark interest from customers
Northern Ireland has its first 'socially aware' electricity supplier from today as new arrival Open Electric is launched into the market.
The Belfast-based company vowed to reward loyal customers with a profit share after it won a competitive electricity supply licence from the Utility Regulator.
And it said it would also make charitable donations to causes picked by its customers - as well as keeping charges transparent with a 'clear and simple' one-rate charge per unit.
All billing options will be free, the new company has said - and customers will be able to choose paper bills for no extra charge.
The company has been established by former System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) technical analyst and entrepreneur, Marc Norris.
It will be competing with existing suppliers SSE Electricity, Budget Energy, Power NI and Electric Ireland.
Mr Norris, one of two directors of the company, claimed customers in Northern Ireland had been "at the mercy of suppliers which have put their own interests first, bamboozling them with complex and often confusing pricing, while also making them pay more for choosing to receive a bill by post".
But he claimed customers of Open Electric - which is aimed only at domestic customers at this point - would be able to avail of a credit payback scheme.
He added: "We also promise to financially support charity and community initiatives for the benefit of all and we invite our new customers to choose who should benefit most."
The company will start selling electricity to customers in August and it's believed could in time offer its supply to business users if demand is there. Open Electric said there was "no contract tie-in", unlike with other suppliers.
Mr Norris added: "We know that reliability, simplicity and the delivery of quality customer care and value for money will be the pillars of our combined success and we invite prospective new customers to contact us now to hear more and register their interest."
Neasa Quigley, a partner at law firm Carson McDowell, specialising in energy and technology, said: "Any competition in the electricity market will benefit consumers - and we have seen a couple of new entrants to the market in the last few years, with Budget Energy and more recently, Click Energy, using pay-as-you-go models and bringing innovation to the market."
The Northern Ireland energy market has very few electricity suppliers, with only four main players in the market - Power NI, which is part of Viridian, SSE Airtricity, Budget Energy and Electric Ireland. That compares with 81 suppliers in the UK.
And Northern Ireland businesses also face high energy costs, with tariffs for business the second highest in Europe after Italy.
Economist John Simpson said the new entrant would be a rival for Budget Energy. He added: "With Budget Energy saying it now has around 60,000 customers, Open Electric will be aiming for a share of that market."