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Why electricity tariffs for small firms should be published

Published on 23/05/2017
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Following full deregulation of the commercial electricity market, Power NI have removed from view the only published tariff to which small businesses have access.

In a submission last July to the Energy Regulator, enirgy.info warned that this was likely to happen and recommended in the interests of greater transparency that all suppliers be required to put their prices in plain sight.

The following is the conclusion from that submission.

"NIAUR may have little choice but to fully price deregulate the electricity supply market for businesses given the fact that the current position appears to be out of step with accepted regulatory norms.

However modifying the oversight of the market, in a way which makes it more like the regime across the water, may disadvantage small firms here. They could find themselves like their counterparts in Great Britain paying too much for electricity largely because they do not have the tools to exploit the advantages of a fully deregulated environment. 

At the moment these firms can use the regulated tariff, published by Power NI, as a benchmark to compare what a rival supplier or a broker might be offering. If they make even the most rudimentary attempts to compare and switch, they can never find themselves on the worst tariff. 

In a fully deregulated market, there will be no compulsion on Power NI to publish its tariff. In fact it is distinctly possible it will follow the practice of its sister company Energia which does not publish its rates. 

In that scenario the smallest firms may find themselves at sea, dependent on sales people or brokers to guide them towards best value. It would take an enormous leap of faith to believe that these microbusinesses will always end up with an optimum tariff. 

The solution, in the view of enirgy.info, is to require suppliers which intend to sell in the 0-50 MWh market to publish their prices in so far as that is reasonable so that they can be easily compared. Such an instruction by NIAUR would be in keeping with what is likely to take place in Great Britain."

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