NIAER Publishes Details of Further Opening of N.I. Electricity Market

26 February 2004

To date the majority of electricity customers in Northern Ireland are still supplied by Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) as the public electricity supplier. However a European Union (EU) Directive on the Internal Market for Electricity that came into effect here in July 1999 meant that those customers who accounted for the top 35% of electricity demand annually were entitled to choose a supplier that could obtain its supplies from sources other than NIE. These customers were deemed to be “eligible” customers and an eligibility limit was imposed. To date this limit has been where the customer has maximum demand for electricity greater than or equal to 1 megawatt and/or an expected normal annual consumption of electricity of no less than 0.79 gigawatt hours.

A subsequent EU Directive in 2003 means that from 2004 all non-domestic customers should have a choice of supplier and from 2007 all customers (domestic and non-domestic) should have this choice. Hence from 1 April 2004 if your expected normal annual consumption of electricity is greater than or equal to 0.5 gigawatt hours you will be entitled to choose amongst the current licensed suppliers in Northern Ireland. In order words you will be deemed an eligible customer.

NIAER issues licences to electricity suppliers to the eligible market and their details can be found on this website by clicking HERE. It is important to note that although suppliers are licensed by NIAER, the prices they charge are not regulated (with the exception of the NIE Public Electricity Supply business). Therefore the onus is on the customer and relevant supplier to arrive at a mutually acceptable contract. You should also bear in mind that eligible customers retain the option to remain with NIE as their electricity supplier.

The eligible supply market may operate in a different way from that in which you previously obtained your electricity. The eligible supply market is operated on a negotiated contractual basis between customer and supplier. Suppliers to the eligible sector are granted licences from NIAER. However they are entirely responsible for their own pricing policies and contractual arrangements.

There is a standard process associated with switching supplier and information on this can be obtained from any of the suppliers listed on the Ofreg website.

It is important to bear in mind that a change in electricity supplier does not in any way imply a change in the quality of supply which you will receive. Essentially if the Northern Ireland wide electricity supply is in difficulty, for example if there is a problem with a generating plant and some customers need to be interrupted, the choice of which customers are affected is in no way influenced by the electricity supplier a particular customer has. NIE will act in a non-discriminatory manner and will treat all customers equally irrespective of their supplier.

Ofreg, NIE and electricity industry participants have been working on the development of new systems to facilitate further market opening. However it is not technically feasible to have 55,000 non-domestic customers change supplier on 1 April 2004. Therefore the non-domestic market will be fully opened in stages beginning 1 April 2004. However by early 2005, subject to the successful implementation of new systems, the non-domestic market will be fully opened. This will equate to approximately 60% of the electricity market by demand.

Details on further market opening can be obtained from this web site, as they become available during the course of the year.

If you have any queries or require further information please contact:

Orla Mullan,
Ofreg
Brookmount Buildings
42 Fountain Street
Belfast
BT1 5EE

tel: 028 90311575
or email: orla.mullan@ofregni.gov.uk