More of Northern Ireland’s businesses can choose their electricity supplier

02 October 2000

Access to the competitive market in electricity trading means that a further 80 significant businesses in Northern Ireland can now choose their electricity supplier – Douglas McIldoon

Electricity Regulator, Douglas McIldoon, has announced the next phase of market opening in electricity trading.

With effect from 1 October 2000, any customer with an annual electricity consumption of more than 1.33 GWh (Gigawatt Hours) can trade in the competitive market.

Commenting, Mr McIldoon said:

“As a result of this further market opening, which puts Northern Ireland ahead of the requirements of the EU Directive, another 80 businesses here will be able to benefit from having access to the competitive market.”

This phase of market opening represents an increase in the threshold from 30 percent of demand to 32 percent of demand. The market will open to 35 percent in April 2001.

Notes for Editors

When the Northern Ireland electricity industry was re-organised in April 1992 and vested into the various companies which were subsequently sold, a degree of competition was introduced, However there was no freedom of trade in electricity generation, Under the Supply Competition Code all generators had to sell their output to the power procurement manager at Northern Ireland Electricity plc (NIE) and all suppliers had to purchase all of the electricity they needed for their customers’ requirements from the power procurement manager at NIE.
In February 1997, the EU Directive 96/92/EC the “Internal Market in Electricity” (IME) became law. The main features of this directive are to encourage competition in the generation and supply of electricity. Member States now have to progressively open up their markets to competition i.e. to give customers of electricity the right to select from a number of competing suppliers of electricity.
The IME Directive has a number of important implications for Northern Ireland. It requires there to be a facility to allow direct trades between certain “eligible customers” and independent generators, it requires that the transmission system be placed under separate management from non-transmission activities, it sets regulations relating to the commissioning of new generation plant, it provides rules for the provision of separate accounting requirements and it requires there to be a transparent method of access to the system.

Under the terms of the Directive, an “eligible customer” is anyone whose annual consumption exceeds 100 GWh per year and such other customers as the Member State shall decide in order to bring market opening of at least 33 percent by 2003. Over 100 GWh customers constitute less than 2 percent of the market in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, “eligible customers” are calculated on a per site consumption basis. Here, customers who have an annual demand of over 1 MW and/or sites that consume in excess of around 1.33 GWh are now classified as “eligible” and thus have the option of participating in the competitive market.
With the initial market opening of 26 percent in July 1999, approximately 240 businesses in Northern Ireland were classified as “eligible customers.” With this latest market opening taking market opening to 32 percent, it is estimated that 420 businesses are now “eligible customers.”

For further information or to arrange an interview with Douglas McIldoon, please contact Nick Carson on 028 9127 5965 or 07711 482807