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Category: Domestic


Marketing lesson for energy suppliers

marketing-lesson-for-energy-suppliers

The quarterly reports on gas and electricity customer numbers from the Utility Regulator are normally low on surprises. This supplier has attracted a few more consumers. That one has lost some. It’s not quite a snores fest but hardly riveting reading.

However the most recent edition contained a bit of shocker. It showed that Budget Energy had lost more ...
Published on 05/06/2017

Faster drying with plain sawn wood

faster-drying-with-plain-sawn-wood

A fortnight ago I asked if we have been chopping up logs the wrong way if we accept that the right method would leave the wood in a state where it will dry more efficiently.


The most common technique, which I have used myself, is the the quarter sawn method which as the name suggests means splitting the logs as you would cut up a cake. 


But the sci...

Published on 18/04/2017

Solar shines brightly

solar-shines-brightly

Until relatively recently talk of large scale renewable generation in Northern Ireland meant wind farms. Turbines not only dominated the landscape, they made up the vast bulk of green power capacity.


Wind still predominates but solar power is beginning to assert itself. In recent weeks we have seen two major solar projects linked up to the electricity network. Up near Rasha...

Published on 14/04/2017

Mild winter helps to lower wholesale energy prices

mild-winter-helps-to-lower-wholesale-energy-prices

Wholesale energy prices here fell by nearly 18% in February as increased imports into the UK of LNG combined with mild weather continued to push prices downwards. However, the Vayu Energy Report shows that despite this substantial drop wholesale prices are still well up on a year ago. 


Vayu Senior Energy Analyst, Keith Donnelly said: “We are continuing to see...

Published on 26/03/2017

Gas price hike could have been greater

gas-price-hike-could-have-been-greater
The announcement of a 7.6% increase in the cost of gas for homes and small businesses in Belfast comes after a surge in the wholesale cost of fossil fuels on world markets.

The new tariff which has been approved by the Energy Regulator takes effect on the first of April.

It is the first hike in gas prices in Northern Ireland for four years. Th...
Published on 03/03/2017

Gas price hike prediction

gas-price-hike-prediction

Gas prices are being reviewed by the Energy Regulator and the new tariffs when they're announced will kick in at the beginning of April

We’ll know soon enough what the new costs will be but for what it’s worth here’s my prediction. It’s a very rough and ready calculation.

This time last year the price of gas for delivery this winter (2016) was abo...
Published on 23/02/2017

An energy firm to watch

an-energy-firm-to-watch
The company which spotted that the wholesale cost of power went negative one morning last month is probably the most interesting Irish energy firm you’ve never heard of. Electroroute reported that for three half hour periods on December 9, suppliers were being paid to take electricity off the grid. The wholesale cost plunged to minus €85 for a MWh which equates to about minus 7 pence a kWh.
Published on 15/01/2017

World breakthrough for Ireland's grid operators

world-breakthrough-for-ireland-s-grid-operators
It’s one thing for wind farms to be able to generate large amounts of  electricity but it’s another being able to manage those volumes of intermittent energy on the network.
That is the huge challenge the two grid operators on the island, including SONI here in Belfast, have been working on. 
Already on several occasions in recent months, the network has coped wi...
Published on 11/01/2017

Power at 5 pence a unit but not here

power-at-5p-a-unit-but-not-here

Households across the water are to be offered the chance to buy electricity at just 5 pence a unit.

Admittedly the rock bottom price from Green Energy is only available between the hours of 11pm and 6 am.


For most of the time, customers will pay 12 pence which is still a pretty good rate.


However on weekdays between 4 pm and 7 pm, the charge is ...

Published on 02/01/2017

Regulator plays down role of exports in power price surge

regulator-plays-down-role-of-exports-in-power-price-surge
 The Energy Regulator has rejected a claim that exports of electricity to Great Britain have been a major cause in driving up the wholesale cost of power here.

In a note to enirgy.info detailing the background to the recent rise in prices, the Regulator says sales to GB have had only a marginal impact. Their analysis showed that exports were “responsible for setting prices ...
Published on 02/11/2016

Enquiry needed into rising cost of power

enquiry-needed-into-rising-cost-of-power

Since it first became clear that the wholesale price of electricity had markedly shifted upwards, explanations have been offered to explain the change.


Just to recap: the wholesale cost of power has been around £30 a MWh or 3 pence a kWh for many months. But in recent weeks it has jumped to £50 and even £60 a MWh hour. That’s the load weighted average price over an entire t...

Published on 30/10/2016

Need to redo numbers for N/S Interconnector

need-to-redo-numbers-for-the-n-s-interconnector
There’s one clear message coming through about the North South Interconnector. If the power link isn’t built, the lights may very well go out. Both the Energy Regulator and the company which operates the electricity system have issued statements to that effect. Anyone who reads or listens to the news on a regular basis surely cannot have missed the story.

There’s some...
Published on 30/10/2016

Electric shock

electric-shock

For those who keep an eye on the cost of energy, recent developments in the wholesale markets have raised a few eyebrows. Oil, gas and now electricity have been rising sharply in price.


For much of this year the wholesale price* of a unit of electricity remained around three pence but at the start of this month it climbed to four pence and then further upwards until by the ...

Published on 23/10/2016

Confused and contradictory energy policy

confused-and-contradictory-energy-policy
On those days when the sun is shining but the wind isn’t blowing, our wind turbines sit idle.
At ten thirty this morning wind farms were meeting just two per cent of our electricity demand. Filling the gap have been generators burning gas but also coal. Kilroot Power Station which uses coal has been supplying around forty per cent of our needs. That’s a vastly higher proportion than...
Published on 19/10/2016

How big is the heating oil industry

how-big-is-the-heating-oil-industry
How big is Northern Ireland’s heating oil market? As far as I know there are no official figures but on the basis of some national energy statistics, it’s possible to make a reasonable guess.

Across the UK on average 1,970,000 tonnes of so called burning oil is consumed by households each year. Burning oil is the name given to kerosene or paraffin which is by far the ...
Published on 16/10/2016

No plan to compensate N/S Interconnector homes equally

no-plan-to-compensate-n-s-interconnector-homes-equally-da4e19c0-e687-4fec-a136-df9fd0197cd5

It’s emerged there is no plan to offer homes along the Northern Ireland section of the proposed North South Interconnector the same compensation as their counterparts in the Republic.

The General Manager of SONI, the body which operates the electricity system here, told members of the Westminster NI Affairs Committee there is no equivalent of the Republic’s Community and Proximity Funds...

Published on 07/09/2016

UK tops diesel price league

uk-tops-diesel-price-league
UK drivers suffer the highest diesel prices in the European Union. The average cost of a litre in July was 112. 7 pence. The lowest price was in Luxembourg at 77.7 pence per litre.

The high UK diesel prices are mainly due to taxes. These made up nearly 70 per cent of the total price for diesel compared to 50 to 65 per cent in the rest of the EU.

Published on 25/08/2016

New Belfast power station to reduce blackout risk?

new-belfast-power-station-to-reduce-blackout-risk
Evermore Energy, the company behind the proposed 400 MW gas fired power plant in the Belfast Harbour Estate, has told an influential House of Commons committee that it intends to be operating commercially by 2019 subject to planning and financing.

In a statement to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC), Evermore, which already runs a 16 MW biomass fuelled CHP ...
Published on 21/08/2016

Phew! what a scorcher

phew-what-a-scorcher
For those who believe that climate change is now under control, there was a timely warning last week from Copernicus, the EU’s earth monitoring service.

Copernicus revealed that July was the hottest month the world has seen since records began in the nineteenth century. 

Jean-Noel Thépaut, Head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, sa...
Published on 14/08/2016

NIE's electric bill

nie-s-electric-bill
NIE has announced it wants to invest around half a billion pounds in its network. The proposed expenditure, if approved by the Energy Regulator, would take place from 2017 onwards. 

Over half the money is earmarked for a renewal of assets. NIE makes the case for an upgrade by reference to equipment which it says is in poor condition, obsolete or at the ...
Published on 07/08/2016

Plan to abolish price control for small business electricity market

plan-to-abolish-price-control-for-small-business-electricity-market
The Energy Regulator is proposing to remove the price control which covers the supply of electricity to small businesses. Currently Power NI’s tariff for companies using up to 50 MWh a year has to be approved by the Regulator. The supplier has argued that switching is now frequent enough in this sector, which has around 50,000 customers, to justify the removal of the price control. 
Published on 05/06/2016

Want some electricity? The bill is on me.

giving-away-power-for-nothing
Not just free electricity. It’s even better than that. Across the water on Sunday May 8, according to energy data company @enappsys, generators paid more than £30 a MWh to be relieved of unwanted power. It’s not the first time this has happened and the phenomenon is set to become more common.

These episodes occur when combined wind, solar and fossil fuel generation ex...
Published on 22/05/2016

Energy market generating new stories

energy-market-generating-news-stories
Perhaps it was the sunny weather but whatever the reason, there was quite a lot of energy news this week. And most of it was positive.

Topping the list was the revelation that the same brothers who have created a biomass power plant at Lisahally in Derry are planning a much bigger generating station in Belfast. Ciaran and Stephen Devine want to build a 400 M...
Published on 15/05/2016

Renewables expansion fails to stop greenhouse gas growth in Ireland

renewables-expansion-fails-to-stop-greenhouse-gas-growth-in-ireland

Despite an expanding renewables energy sector, total energy related emissions of carbon dioxide in the Irish Republic rose last year by almost four per cent compared with the previous year. In the UK emissions fell by just under three per cent. There is no separate figure for Northern Ireland.

Across the EU as a whole the EU statistics agency Eurostat estimates that carbon dioxide e...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Energy installer creates over 30 jobs

energy-installer-creates-over-30-jobs
Heating and renewable energy installer, CTS Projects, has announced the creation of 32 new jobs in the last 18 months, almost doubling employee numbers to a total of 70.
 
The company, which is headquartered in Warrenpoint, has generated the employment as a result of winning £14m in new contracts with four housing associations and launching a strategic diversific...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Wholesale gas prices to fall even further says Vayu

wholesale-gas-prices-to-fall-even-further-says-vayu
Wholesale gas prices have fallen by 40 per cent over the course of the last twelve months according to the latest Wholesale Energy Market Report published by Vayu Energy. The company which recently announced an expansion into Northern Ireland put the collapse in prices down to abundant supplies and suppressed demand.
 
The average day-ahead price for gas so far this A...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Power to the people

power-to-the-people
High demand for low cost electricity has prompted an energy co-operative to launch another round of its programme to install solar panels free of charge for charities and community organisations.

Almost 40 bodies have already expressed an interest in the solar energy project that should see their electricity bills slashed in half. 

Northe...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Green energy accolade for Housing Executive manager

green-energy-accolade-for-housing-executive-manager
Longstanding Housing Executive manager Noel Rice has picked up the top prize at the Annual Action Renewables Association Awards 2016. He beat off tough competition to win the Outstanding Award for Work in the Renewable Energy Sector.

Here's the assessment of Noel's role presented to guests at the Action Renewables Awards ceremony in Titanic Belfast. 

"Noel has bee...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Why regulation is good for you (in a falling market)

why-regulation-is-good-for-you-in-a-falling-market

New figures just out add weight to the belief that a combination of price regulation and competition in the electricity market can work better for consumers than competition on its own. 

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has released statistics which show that while the average household direct debit bill in England and Wales dropp...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Should all power suppliers publish their pricing for small businesses?

should-all-power-suppliers-publish-their-pricing-for-small-businesses

The investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority into the energy supply market in Great Britain unsurprisingly attracted virtually no attention here. That’s understandable. Most of what was said only applies to a market we don’t participate in and which is run on different principles. Across the water they have fairly unrestricted competition while here domestic customers can rely on ...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Can the cost of power fall much further?

can-the-cost-of-power-fall-much-further
While electricity prices these days never present a static picture thanks to the entry of new suppliers, the landscape should be clearer when Power NI’s price cut comes into effect on Thursday, April 1.

The company, which still retains the loyalty of three in four of those households who pay for their power in arrears, will be cutting its charges by just over 10 per c...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Record renewable power production

record-renewable-power-production
Last year just over 25% of electricity consumption in Northern Ireland was generated from renewable sources based. That’s an increase of 6.4% on the previous12 months and is the highest rolling 12 month proportion on record. The vast bulk of green electricity produced in 2015 - just over 90% - was generated by wind turbines.

December past produced not just the hi...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Funding for Fair Head?

funding-for-fair-head
Fair Head Tidal say their planned 100 MW turbine installation off the North Antrim coast will produce enough power to satisfy the demands of 70,000 homes.

What this implies is that the turbines will have about a 25% efficiency which is comparable to the output of wind turbines. Except of course the building and running of these underwater generators is bound to b...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Lower prices for gas and electricity

lower-prices-for-gas-and-electricity
The cost of gas and electricity is set to fall as regulated suppliers review their costs.

Power NI started to examine its tariff before Christmas. It's understood that the company which has over half a million domestic customers will announce its new prices in February. They will come into effect at the beginning of April.

Last year the company cut its rates by just over 9 per cent. ...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Savings for oil buyers

savings-for-oil-buyers
Many of our least well off households have been able to buy energy supplies this winter at discount prices thanks to the rapid expansion of oil buying clubs.

There are now 27 such clubs in Northern Ireland with over 1,700 members. 

Since last May they have enabled 1,200 homes to acquire a total of 600,000 litres of oil, much of it at belo...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Turbines, toasters and televisions

turbines-toasters-and-televisions
The newly approved Cam Burn wind farm near Aghadowey will produce enough electricity to light up and power all the devices in 7,900 homes. That’s the claim by developer TCI Renewables. How do they work that out?

They start off with the installed capacity of the wind farm. That’s 13.8 megawatts. In theory if the wind blew all the time you could expect to get 13.8 ...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Pulling the plug on renewables

pulling-the-plug-on-renewables
When I first started to compose my thoughts for this article on renewable energy, there was still a hope that the Department of Energy and Climate Change in London would cut us some slack on support for new onshore wind farms. It wasn’t a big ask. Letting the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme run on here for a year longer than in Great Britain wouldn’t have imposed a huge burden. The closure ...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Pricing power

pricing-power
A question I’m often asked is: why does electricity here cost so much? My response is that it could be worse. If we paid similar rates of VAT on energy as other countries, prices would be substantially higher. As it is, the cost of power for consumers is a bit over the average for EU countries as a whole but the underlying price, that is before VAT is applied, is significantly above than aver...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Lawyer proposes all island renewable energy policy

lawyer-proposes-all-island-renewable-energy-policy
A leading energy lawyer here has called for an island regime to support renewable energy. 

Richard Murphy of Pinsent Masons made the recommendation at the Northern Ireland Energy Forum held in Belfast on Sept 10. He said mirroring legislation from England & Wales had led to a scenario where the local industry could be left at a severe disadvantage.

Mr Murphy was referri...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Wholesale cost of energy drops to new low

wholesale-cost-of-energy-drops-to-new-low
The firmus Energy Index touched a new low in July as world markets continue to be swamped by a surplus of oil. The Index, which tracks wholesale fuel prices in Northern Ireland, dropped to 74. That’s the lowest figure recorded since the benchmark was launched over five years ago. 

Brent crude ended July at just over 52 dollars a barrel following a 17 per cent pri...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Wholesale energy prices near six year low

wholesale-energy-prices-near-six-year-low
Continuing weakness last month in the global oil market has moved the firmus Energy Index close to a six year low. The widely regarded measure of Northern Ireland wholesale fuel costs fell by four per cent to stand at 84 in June. 

Oil prices had been recovering recently amid good news about the US economy but the economic crisis in Greece helped reverse the trend...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Launch of new electricity supplier

launch-of-new-electricity-supplier

New energy supplier Open Electric has launched itself into Northern Ireland's competitive domestic electricity market with an offer which it claims differentiates itself from its rivals.

 

The Belfast-based company, which was established last year and has been granted an electricity supply licence by the Utility Regulato...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Electricity suppliers suspect tampering of 5000 meters

electricity-suppliers-suspect-tampering-of-5000-meters

The scale of electricity meter tampering has been disclosed in a consultation document issued by the Energy Regulator. It appears that energy suppliers suspect around 5,000 meters are being interfered with. The extent of the losses from the theft involved has not been revealed. However it's understood that some customers are managing to avoid almost any payment while others are roughly hal...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Oil price hike pushes up wholesale energy costs

oil-price-hike-pushes-up-wholesale-energy-costs

An increase in the price of oil during April lifted the firmus energy Index to 91. Month on month the cost of a barrel rose 17 per cent. Oil is more expensive now than at any time since the start of January. However, the overall cost of energy remains well below the average level of the past five years despite this hike in the price of oil.

 

Commenting on the Ap...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Wholesale energy prices dropping again

wholesale-energy-prices-dropping-again

Rises in wholesale fuel prices in February have almost entirely reversed during March. The firmus energy Index dropped ten per cent last month to finish at 82, just above the mark it reached in January 2015.

 

The strengthening of the world’s main currency paradoxically helped to lower the cost of energy last month. The firming up of the dollar has a track record i...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Curb on Green Power

curb-on-green-power

A new discussion paper issued by DETI reveals the profound impact that reform of the electricity market across the UK will have on the renewable energy industry in Northern Ireland. Don’t be misled by its bland title: CFD Implementation in NI–Strategic issues. This document contains lots that should concern and even alarm wind farm developers and solar panel installers. It will also grea...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

New tariffs compared

new-tariffs-compared

Now that the electricity suppliers have announced their new tariffs, who is offering the cheapest deals? I have used the new estimate of average consumption which is 3200 kWh a year. 

Standard default tariff which is the most expensive option

  • Budget Energy                £518.11
  • Power NI         &...
Last updated on 11/05/2016

Price puzzle

price-puzzle

The cost of gas, which is the main fuel used by power stations, has dropped year on year by about 20%. So why is the price of electricity coming down by just 5% as evidenced by the Budget Energy announcement?

Put plainly, wholesale fuel costs are a significant component of the bills consumers pay but they are not as important as many people might imagine.

A report publis...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

SSE Airtricity changes its tariff

sse-airtricity-changes-its-tariff

In about a month’s time the Energy Regulator will announce a new electricity tariff for Power NI.

Before that happens SSE Airtricity has moved to adjust some of its key rates. 

Two year contract deals are being revised. They now offer up to ten cent off the standard unit rate depending on how you want to pay and be billed. Those customers happy to pay by direct debit and to...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Local energy firms rated by Which

local-energy-firms-rated-by-which

Budget Energy has emerged on top in a customer satisfaction survey conducted by consumer organisation Which.

The North West based electricity supplier scored 61 points, significantly ahead of its rivals. 

Gas supplier Firmus came second with 53 followed by SSE Airtricity on 51 and Power NI on 48.

The figures were based on customers’ overall satisfaction combined wit...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Price comparison websites facing reforms

price-comparison-websites-facing-reforms

 The Energy Regulator across the water has brought in reforms to ensure that customers checking tariffs on price comparison sites get the full picture.

Among the key reforms introduced by Ofgem:

Banning a default partial view. Sites must show all tariffs available in the market unless customers actively choose to select to see a smaller number of tariffs.

...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Virtual power station

virtual-power-station

You probably haven’t heard of what is effectively Northern Ireland’s fourth biggest power station and you’ve certainly never seen it.

And yet it’s been going for four years and and it exists all around you.

With the capacity to deliver 74 MW iPower plays a key role in the electricity system.

While rarely called on to generate, its 24/7 readiness to burst into life a...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Cutting energy prices

cutting-energy-prices

Why not now? If wholesale gas, oil and coal prices have already fallen, shouldn’t we be seeing lower domestic bills in January rather than having to wait until April when the winter will be over?


It looks like a good point but the fact is that one of the biggest reasons why tariffs haven’t fallen is because we have endorsed a system which prevents it.


R...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Cut your electricity bill

cut-your-electricity-bill

It is possible to make substantial savings on your power bill but you must be ready to switch, and switch again if your deal comes to an end and you move onto a much less attractive tariff, - all the time of course watching out for penalties for leaving early. The reductions are listed below and refer to standard usage. If you use more than average, the savings will be correspondingly bigger.&n...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Plugging the gap

plugging-the-gap

The Energy Regulator has revealed more details about plans to make sure the lights don’t go out next January when US owned AES is forced to switch off 510 megawatts of capacity at its Ballylumford station in order to comply with EU rules on emissions.


The cost to homes of contracting in the extra capacity needed had already been indicated. It’s about £5 a year for the avera...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Wholesale energy prices fall

wholesale-energy-prices-fall

The wholesale cost of energy here plunged ten per cent last month, as oil prices continued to slither downwards. The firmus energy index dropped to 98 - a new low in its five year history. 


Oil may not be the only fuel consumed in Northern Ireland but it is by far the most dominant.  As a result it has a disproportionate influence on the overall energy index, trum...

Last updated on 11/05/2016

Wholesale energy price index at four year low

wholesale-energy-price-index-at-four-year-low


After moving sideways for a couple of months, the wholesale cost of energy lurched downwards by six per cent in October. The firmus energy Index which monitors a basket of key prices in Northern Ireland dropped to 108, its lowest point in just over four years.


The index was dragged down by a fall in the cost of oil. The charge for a barrel has fallen by 25% sin...

Last updated on 11/05/2016