NIAER Issues Guidance for Customers RE Market Opening

16 November 2004

The Authority offers guidance on non-domestic market opening: October 2004 – March 2005

NIAER would like to provide guidance on the rules for the operation of the non-domestic electricity market until March 2005. Non-domestic customers should note these rules and how they will affect them if they are approached by an alternative supplier.

It is anticipated that all non-domestic customers will be not be deemed eligible until March 2005 and until such time priority will be given to those customers currently deemed eligible. The definition of eligible customer is given in a legal document entitled “The Supply Competition Code” and is currently any customer with an expected normal annual consumption of electricity of not less than 0.25 gigawatt hours. Therefore eligibility is defined in terms of your electricity usage, with the customers with the highest electricity demand becoming eligible first.

In addition, any customer, whether currently deemed eligible or not, is entitled to be supplied by any licensed supplier if the electricity supplied is 100% sourced from non-fossil fuel generation i.e. green electricity. Every customer must install or have installed a half-hourly meter unless they are part of the Renewable Output Factor (RoF) market. The RoF market currently only deals with wind generated electricity. All licensed suppliers in Northern Ireland are free to supply any customer with fossil fuel generation, even those not currently within the eligible criteria. In those circumstances suppliers will have to buy power at the BST price to supply customers not currently deemed eligible and such customers will also require to hane instaklled a half-hourly meter.

Given that the non-domestic market was to be opened in stages to minimise costs and risks, NIAER told suppliers in January 2004 that, until March 2005 priority for meter installation would be given to those customers currently deemed eligible. Those customers who currently have an annual consumption of less than 0.25 gigawatt hours and are still being supplied at BST will then be facilitated according to meter resource availability. Therefore if you are currently not eligible you may have to wait a period of time before a meter can be installed. Your supplier should highlight any expected time delay between signing with them as your new supplier and meter installation.

When a supplier approaches you with a sales offer there are a number of important points you should bear in mind:

(1) similar to any contractual arrangement you enter into you should always read the small print and be aware of, for example ‘get-out’ penalties, price changes etc.

(2) the price quoted may change over the lifetime of your contract due to certain ‘pass-through’ elements and it is entirely up to each supplier how they incorporate these costs. The Public Service Obligation (PSO), System Support Service (SSS) and Use of System (UoS) levies are approved annually by NIAER and may hence vary over the duration of your contract. The small print in your contract may refer to the fact that the price you pay is dependent on these levies remaining fixed and if they increase your price will also increase. All customers are advised to ask the supplier representative to provide a comprehensive explanation of how the bill is constituted.

(3) NIAER does not impose deadlines or specify any timeframes within which contracts should be signed.

(4) there are a number of alternative suppliers you can choose from, you can view these by clicking on this LINK and any particular supplier should not suggest that they are the only alternative to your current supplier.

(5) if you have concerns about the selling practices of an electricity supplier or the contractual terms offered you should contact the General Consumer Council or by Tel: 0845 6016022

A paper copy of this document can be obtained by contacting

Orla Mullan
Ofreg
Brookmount Buildings
42 Fountain Street
Belfast
BT1 5EE
FAX: 028 90 311740
TEL: 028 90 311575
E-mail: orla.mullan@ofregni.gov.uk

Copies will be made avilable in large print, braille, audio cassetteand a variety of relevant min ority languages if required.