Belfast Telegraph

Prices shake-up of Northern Ireland electricity sector 'will save families money'

By Rachel Martin

Families across Northern Ireland could see even lower electricity bills if plans to deregulate the market leader here are approved, according to Power NI's boss.

The Utility Regulator will make the call on whether to allow Power NI to set its own prices if it believes deregulation to be in consumers' best interests.

Last week, it was announced that Power NI would bring tariffs down to the lowest price in 16 years, saving domestic customers in Northern Ireland an average of around £50 a year.

Power NI CEO Stephen McCully said it was likely the company's domestic section would be deregulated within the next five years.

If allowed, Power NI claims more competition over prices could be on the cards for electricity consumers.

A decision is expected to be made by the Utility Regulator later this year on whether Power NI's business side will cease to have its prices regulated.

Until 2010, Power NI, formerly NIE, was the only electricity supplier in Northern Ireland. Now six companies - SSE Airtricity, Electric Ireland, Click Energy, Budget Energy, Open Electric and Power NI - serve the market.

The news comes as the Utility Regulator launched its five-year strategy aimed at protecting domestic energy and water consumers in Northern Ireland.

If the price deregulation of Power NI is given the go-ahead, other aspects of electricity operations would still be regulated to ensure customers receive a safe and reliable supply.

Jenny Pyper, Utility Regulator CEO, said: "No decision on this has yet been taken and we have committed to consulting on the future balance of regulation and competition in Northern Ireland later this year.

"Our focus is on protecting consumers and this is the key test for us in any potential decision to cease regulating prices for business consumers.

"Our regulation of the energy market has led to increased competition and delivered price decreases that not only reflect costs but are much lower than those in Great Britain."

Belfast Telegraph


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