Home heating costs compared

Which fuel is the most cost effective for your home? Wholesale fuel prices have been in flux over the past year which makes this a good time to conduct a comparison of the main fuels. Using a range of sources enirgy.info has attempted to present an up to date picture of home heating costs. In an industry where some suppliers guard their price lists closely, you can assist the establishment of an accurate guide by sending in your experience of charges.

Fall in demand limited size of Power NI price cut

The Electricity Regulator has welcomed the near 5% reduction in Power NI's tariff. The decrease which will come into effect at the start of July will reduce the average household domestic electricity bill by close to £30. However Jenny Pyper says the cut would have been much more significant had it not been for a fall in total electricity demand as a result of Covid-19 which left fixed costs being smeared over a smaller number of units.

Published on 12/05/2020
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Further fall in cost of home heating oil

The collapse in oil prices has sent the cost of home heating oil plummeting. It’s now down at a level not seen since early 2016.

The average charge for 500 litres is just over £137. That has left home heating oil the cheapest by far of the four fuels compared by enirgy.info. At these prices heating a house with home heating oil would cost £465 over the course of a year, a margin of £150 cheaper than natural gas.* As crude oil continues to suffer from over supply and depressed demand, ...

Published on 23/04/2020
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Will the cost of electricity come down

On Sunday April 5, the main wholesale market here for electricity went negative. Instead of paying, people got paid, for taking supplies of power from the Day Ahead Market. Now that’s not that unusual. There have been short periods before where charges have gone negative. But this was the first time that it happened to the average price across an entire day But let’s not get too carried away. At the price recorded, acquiring each kWh put just 0.2 pence in the pockets of buyers. It hasn’t exactly...

Last updated on 16/04/2020
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How low can energy prices go

In one short week there’s been a change at the top of the central heating leaderboard.

When enirgy.info last calculated the cost of heating a home, natural gas emerged as the cheapest of the four fuels under comparison. That result wasn’t wholly surprising as it followed cuts in gas prices of around 20% approved by the Energy Regulator. The margin however over home heating oil was relatively small as the cost of that fuel was being impacted by the sinking value of crude oil. But home h...

Published on 09/04/2020
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The falling cost of central heating

The price of oil has been falling through the floor. Last Monday Brent crude dropped below twenty two dollars a barrel, a level not seen in almost twenty years.

This collapse in the cost of the black stuff, brought about by a slump in demand and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, has brought some welcome relief to homes using home heating oil. The average cost of five hundred litres is now just under £194. Those households are not the only ones to see a decrease in their centra...

Last updated on 07/04/2020
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Gas bills fall. Could electricity charges be next?

Gas costs for firmus energy customers in the Ten Towns area are to fall by just over 21% from the start of April.

The price cut applies to 46,000 homes and small businesses.  Around two thirds of the latest reduction is due to a collapse in wholesale gas charges. Prices have fallen because of a glut of natural gas on world markets, a development which has been accentuated recently by a coronavirus-driven drop in demand for the fuel. The remainder is accounted for a decrease in distribution co...

Last updated on 06/05/2020
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Heating oil price falls sharply

The fall in the cost of a barrel of oil has fed through to the price of home heating oil. Since last December the charge for five hundred litres has reduced by around forty pounds. That's a fifteen per cent decrease. The result is that anthracite, heating oil and gas are all closely priced, broadly speaking, when you take into account boiler efficiency. The cheapest by a very small margin is anthracite.But what about the competition between the two most popular central heating fuels?  Despite th...

Published on 02/03/2020
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Smart grid offers cost savings to Coleraine householders

Residents of a public sector housing estate in Coleraine are to be offered the chance to get access to free, green electricity for about a year and a half after their area was chosen to be part of Northern Ireland’s first smart grid. 

Around a hundred homes in the as yet unnamed estate will be equipped both with solar panels to generate power and large 11 KWh batteries to store it. Ten local businesses will also participate in the new grid. It's been estimated households could see a forty pe...

Published on 24/02/2020
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Energy issues facing us in 2020

A new decade doesn’t necessarily usher in a new era but as far as energy is concerned 2020 is set to be the start of a revolution in how we heat our homes, travel to work and transport our goods. Driving the change is a UK Government commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, an objective we will necessarily be tied into in spite of energy being a devolved matter.

Electric cars are still a rarity on our roads. There are currently around three thousand ultra low emission vehicles out of a total ...

Published on 21/01/2020
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A new opportunity to cut electricity bills

The domestic electricity market has been getting more competitiveA new keenly priced tariff has been launched by Budget Energy called Bill Pay Budget Advantage.At first glance though it doesn’t look much of a draw. The headline rate is not especially attractive at 18.67 pence per unit. For a typical household using 3200 units a year, that adds up to £597.44. The tariff is made even less appealing with the application of a standard charge which over the year amounts to £29.23. So what turns this ...

Published on 19/01/2020
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Central heating costs update

If you’ve switched from oil to natural gas recently, you should be feeling pleased with yourself. 

Since I last looked at the annual cost of centrally heating a house, the gap between the price of the two fuels has widened from £75 to £155. This is largely due to an increase in the price of oil but there is another factor at work. I have carried out some calculations using a new figure* for the energy density of kerosene, the fuel typically used as home heating oil.  After the two changes ...

Published on 29/12/2019
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Help shape new NI energy strategy urge Stormont officials

The process of replacing Northern Ireland’s out of date energy strategy has taken another step forward.An appeal to energy professionals, academics and consumer representatives for ideas to help inform and shape a new energy framework has been launched by the Department for the Economy. After a review of submitted evidence, officials intend to issue an options paper next summer with the aim of presenting a draft strategy to a future Executive by the end of next year.The Call for Evidence comes s...

Last updated on 06/05/2020
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Protecting against price rise risks with a fixed rate tariff

Should you take the opportunity to fix the price of your electricity tariff? The option is there thanks to Budget Energy. Their Keypad Budget Advantage deal allows customers who pre pay their power bills the chance to lock down the unit rate for a year.  For households using an average amount of electricity, when you factor in the cost of the standing charge, the effective rate, at almost 20 pence a unit, is quite high. However it is offset by the offer of a £100 bonus payable in two stages t...

Last updated on 14/11/2019
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Rise in sales of electric and hybrid cars

We’ve been in the slow lane as far as the take up of electric and hybrid cars is concerned but are now beginning to pick up speed. The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) released to enirgy.info show that combined sales of battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles in the year to date reached 2860. That’s a 34% increase from the 2135 sold in the same period last year. The surge in sales is more startling given th...

Last updated on 14/11/2019
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Cheapest way to heat your home

What is the cheapest way to heat your home? I’ve been comparing four fuels which over the years have been commonly used for central heating. The current league leader by a small margin is coal in the form of anthracite grains or beans which can been loaded into a gravity fed boiler. This fuel is not nearly as popular as it used to be but some homes still use it.Of far more interest I suspect is the battle between home heating oil and natural gas. At the moment gas is maintaining its lead. The pr...

Last updated on 07/11/2019
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Searching for the cheapest electricity supply

Looking for the cheapest electricity supply should be simple. You check what each company is charging keypad and credit customers for a unit of electricity and, depending on what service you want, you make your choice accordingly. But the selection of the best value deals has become more complicated. You have to consider how much any bonuses on offer will reduce the bill and then, if relevant, how much charges will put the cost up. And also you need to be mindful if you’re on a contract what you...

Last updated on 07/11/2019
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Need for more transparency on costs

Should we be concerned about the price increases in the domestic electricity market which have just taken place? Most were quite modest varying from around six to eight per cent. In cash terms from £32 to £44 a year. That’s less than a pound a week, a figure which many households could easily accommodate. So then, nothing to get too bothered about.  But hold on. This is the third year in a row that electricity prices have risen. If we focus on Power NI’s tariff, which is painstakingly analysed a...

Last updated on 07/11/2019
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Searching for the best value electricity deals

What should you be looking out for with the new tariffs?Obviously the unit rate is very important and the more electricity you use the more important it becomes. But many rates are banded within a narrow range from 17.5 pence to 18.5 pence. So a key thing to look out for is what offers are going to lower the bill and what charges are going to increase it.Two suppliers Budget Energy and Click Energy are applying standing charges which come on top of the cost of all the units you use. These fees r...

Last updated on 07/11/2019
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How green is my supplier

Click Energy emerges as the greenest domestic supplier in Northern Ireland. Each megawatt hour of power it supplies has 115 kg of carbon content. Second is SSE Airtricity with a carbon content of 295kg Suppliers have been able to offer less environmentally damaging power because of changes in the sources of energy used for generationFossil fuels such as coal and even gas are being used less and less as the electricity system accommodates more renewables.

The share of electricity consumption eac...

Last updated on 07/11/2019
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Can you really save money from switching your electricity supplier? The answer is yes but it may take a bit of effort.The reason that choosing the best deal has become more challenging is that most of the effective unit rates currently on offer are in a narrow band between approximately 16.5 pence and 17.5 pence a kWh.Prices are on the move though. Power NI has led the way with a 6 per cent hike, which will become effective at the beginning of October. Other electricity suppliers are likely to u...

Last updated on 08/10/2019
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Power Shock

The cost of electricity is rising again. Power NI has just announced a six per cent increase in its tariff. The hike, when it comes into effect at the beginning of October, will add around £35 a year to the average customer's bill.It follows two previous increases by Power NI: a fourteen per cent price jump last year and a near six per cent boost in 2017.This latest announcement is somewhat surprising since it comes as global gas prices, which are the normal driver of wholesale electricity costs...

Last updated on 06/05/2020
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Price jolt

Hopes of a cut in electricity prices this autumn are crumbling away. In fact it’s distinctly possible that when the current review of costs is complete, the regulated tariff which is offered by Power NI may go up instead of down. This is surprising to say the least given the fall in gas costs which drive wholesale electricity prices.As ever with energy matters, the reasons for this unexpected turn of events are many and complex.One factor is the plan by NIE Networks to increase the Distribution ...

Published on 10/07/2019
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The incredible shrinking domestic energy usage

This article could be subtitled; why your energy bills have been falling even when there was no movement in the cost of gas and electricity. Ten years ago, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) , the average home here, not on Economy 7, was using 4000 units or kWhs of electricity a year. The range was pretty wide. In Belfast a typical household got through 3,500 units annually while in three old council districts, Armagh, Down and Magherafelt usage was c...

Published on 03/07/2019
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Cutting your power bill

New electricity tariffs came into force on Monday. One supplier hiked its prices by over 18%. So which companies are now offering the best deals. It’s not an easy calculation given the introduction of standing charges last summer by Budget Energy. The enirgy.info calculator has factored in these new fees so that you don’t have to add them on to work out what you will pay for a year’s supply of electricity.  The calculator doesn’t however take account of bonuses which can make a significant diffe...

Last updated on 09/10/2018
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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 than twenty per cent of its domestic customers in the first quarter of this year. That’s a big drop. In actual numbers it was a decline from 61,70...

Published on 05/06/2017
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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 scientific literature would suggest that the plain sawn approach is more effective. That involves slicing the log through the centre with subsequen...

Published on 18/04/2017
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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 Rasharkin, German owned Baywa r.e. has had a 46 MW array connected to the grid. The output of the Bann Road site has been secu...

Published on 14/04/2017
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Is NIE likely to appeal its price control?

Will NIE Networks reject the price control announced by the Energy Regulator just before the weekend and appeal the matter to the Competition and Markets Authority?

The Regulator cut the amount of Capex and Opex that the company, a subsidiary of ESB, had wanted to spend over the RP6 period which runs from October 2017 to March 2024. Overall the company has been allowed to attract £1.4 billion in revenue during the six and a half year period. That’s about 11% less than the company had been ...

Published on 27/03/2017
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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 wholesale energy prices remain considerably higher than last year as the market recovers from a year of very low prices.” He added: ...

Published on 26/03/2017
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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. The rise would have been greater had not SSE Airtricity over recovered costs from customers last year to the tune of £2.6 million. That money which is now bein...

Published on 03/03/2017
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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 AprilWe’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 about 33 pence a therm.Currently the price of gas for delivery in Winter 17 is 50 pence a therm. That’s a fifty per cent hike.The wholesale cost of gas make...

Published on 23/02/2017
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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.Most customers won’t see any evidence of a drop in their bills but those businesses who pay the floating pr...

Published on 15/01/2017
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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 with a sixty per cent contribution.However this is the first time they have overseen not only such a high proportion of power coming from w...

Published on 11/01/2017
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Power at 5 pence 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 an eye watering 25 pence a unit.  It won’t work for everyone especially families with young children who tend to use a lot of electricity aroun...

Published on 02/01/2017
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Market loses supplier after wholesale price rise

When Open Electric went into administration last Thursday it was the end of the road for the small Belfast based company.Their supply licence was revoked which meant they could not continue to sell electricity. Their 1,100 customers have been transferred to Power NI.These households can choose to remain there or move on. However former Open Electric customers who want to leave their new supplier will have to wait 20 working days before doing so.The statements issued by the Energy Regulator and P...

Published on 21/12/2016
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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 in less than 1% of the trading periods.”High bidding into the Single Electricity Market (SEM) by AES, the US owners of Ballyl...

Published on 02/11/2016
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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 twenty four period. And there is no evidence yet that the increase is subsiding.  At first the boost in prices was blam...

Published on 30/10/2016
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Need to redo numbers for 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 something about a stark warning which concentrates the mind. It spells out in terms everyone can understand the price to be paid for yo...

Published on 30/10/2016
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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 ninth of October the price had reached five pence a unit where it has since stayed. A rise of one penny coming into au...

Published on 23/10/2016
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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 across the water where coal this morning has been responsible for less than ten per cent of GB generation.So why th...

Published on 19/10/2016
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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 main form of heating oil. It’s also called 28 second oil. Less commonly used for heating is 35 second oil which is better known as ...

Published on 16/10/2016
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Smart thinking about power

Now that Stormont has put smart metering on the long finger, is there another way for consumers to catch up with the rest of the UK, help manage demand for electricity more efficiently and most importantly get rewarded for their co-operation?The solution may well lie in a system being developed by a company across the water. In a world first, Reactive Technologies has been able to send messages through the entire GB electricity network. This breakthrough paves the way for homes and business with...

Published on 12/10/2016
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No plan to compensate N/S Interconnector homes equally

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. Eirgrid spelt out the general principles for the proximity compensation scheme in an information booklet.  ...

Published on 07/09/2016
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No plan to compensate N/S Interconnector homes equally

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. Eirgrid spelt out the general principles for the proximity compensation scheme in an information bookle...

Published on 07/09/2016
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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.The average cost of unleaded petrol per litre was 111.7 pence in July. That was the eighth highest in the EU. The lowest price was in Bulgaria at 83.2 pen...

Published on 25/08/2016
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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 plant at Lisahally outside Derry, gave some more details of the new Belfast Power Plant.Evermore said the station would create 350 ...

Published on 21/08/2016
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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, said: “ These record breaking extremes are the result of a cocktail of weather phenomenon and human activity.”It’s worth noting that currently the Stormont Executiv...

Published on 14/08/2016
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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 end of its life. The last time however that NIE asked for approval for massive asset replacement programme, the proposed spending plan was rejecte...

Published on 07/08/2016
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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. The Regulator is now consulting on whether to allow Power NI to set its own charges free from interference just lik...

Published on 05/06/2016
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Want some electricity? The bill is on me.

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 exceeds demand. Power stations are then asked to reduce their output but because they can’t always wind down immediately, surplus ele...

Published on 22/05/2016
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Energy market generating new 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 MW gas fired plant in the Belfast Harbour Estate. It’s very early days but if the power station does get constructed, it will help deal with t...

Published on 15/05/2016
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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 emissions from fossil fuel combustion increased by 0.7% compared with the previous year. The agency points out tha...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 diversification into private sector boiler servicing. “Thanks to substantial new contracts with four housing associations, Alpha Housing, Fold Hous...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 April was just over 28p pence per therm. This compared with an average price of 47 pence  in April 2015. The fall in prices has signi...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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. Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE) aims to raise £130,000 through a share offer to fund the installation of panels for up to ten charitable and community organisa...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 been employed as the energy conservation manager at the Housing Executive for 16 years ensuring policies are in place to improve the therma...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 dropped by £11 last year compared with 2014, in Northern Ireland the equivalent bill fell by £32. For keypad users the contrast was even more dramatic. Prep...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 a mixture of competition and price regulation.

All the same it does pay to look at these sorts of do...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 cent. That won’t make it the cheapest supplier. That honour goes to Open Electric. But the move is positive news for those consumers...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 highest monthly percentage of renewable electricity in 2015 but, at almost 40% of consumption, the highest on record. The figures may some...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 be much more expensive than installing and operating onshore wind turbines.The advantage of Fair Head machines is that they can be guaran...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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. Changes in wholesale and other costs, an industry source suggested, would probably justify a similar level of cut th...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 below market prices.The households which benefit most are those requiring low level quantities of oil - typically two or three hundred litres a time. Left to the mark...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 megawatt hours of electricity every hour. But of course even in Ireland the wind drops occasionally. They assume they’ll get way less th...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 date of 2017 would, after all, only have been what was originally planned. But the request proved too muc...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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Why switching electricity supplier is not all about the money

What’s the problem with switching electricity supplier? You can interpret that question in a couple of ways. Is there any difficulty in making the transition from one supplier to another? No, there’s not. The process of changing over is straightforward.No, the problem in making the move is that the benefit for many homes can be quite limited. The maximum saving for a household with typical consumption is around £90 a year. That’s if you switch from the dearest tariff to the cheapest. Looked at o...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 average.Various reasons are advanced as to why prices are high. The extra costs of bringing fuel all the way ...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 referring to the plan by the Westminster Government to replace the current Renewables Obligation Scheme with a Contracts for Differen...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 price drop bringing the cost of oil back to where it was in January. Paul Stanfield of firmus energy, said: “The main reasons why the recen...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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£8 million a year to keep NIRO going?

The Department of Energy and Climate Change is planning to close one year early the Renewable Obligations (RO) support scheme for onshore wind turbines. DETI has said it will keep the scheme open here until 2017 but hasn’t revealed the bill that we will incur if we have to meet the cost from our own resources.  Below are my calculations for the assessment that it could cost Stormont at least £8m a year to retain the RO support programme for wind turbines a year longer than in Great Britain.I’ve ...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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. The context for these subdued prices is of course the world glut of oil with supply exceeding demand by three million barrels a day. P...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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New energy suppliers to break the mould?

Three new energy suppliers are set to make their presence felt over the next few months.Belfast based Open Electric has already declared its hand. It is building its appeal partly on a willingness to share its profits with consumersManaging Director Marc Norris said: “ We want our customers to share in our success and we promise to reward them for their loyalty with a credit payback scheme.  “We also promise to financially support charity and community initiatives for the benefit of all and we i...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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Energy efficiency programme given an extension

The

Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme (NISEP) is to be extended for another year. It will continue until March 2017, the Energy Regulator has decided   NISEP is focused on improving energy efficiency with most of the effort directed towards vulnerable households.   The scheme is funded by electricity customers who currently provide around £8m a year through a levy.   A proposal to change the levy arrangements and make domestic customers pay 80% of the cost...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 Regulator has promised both to reward loyal customers with a share in any profits and to make significant charitable donations.   From August, Open Electric will provide new customer...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 halving their bills.The tampering is mostly carried out by users of keypad meters. The main method employed inv...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 April firmus energy Index, John French, firmus energy’s director of regulation and pricing explains: “Oil prices were sent ...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 in reducing both the demand for, and the price of, dollar denominated commodities such as oil. Brent Crude dropped 8 per ...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 greatly disturb those who want Northern Ireland to be at the forefront of combating climate change.

The changes i...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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                £518.11Power NI                         £524.16SSE Airtricity                   £531.22Electric Ireland                £538.88 Direct debit tariff with online billing SSE Airtricity                   £467.38  ( introductory...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 published by Ireland’s energy regulators just before Christmas showed that fuel costs represented half the total revenue ...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 receive their bills by email will also get £50 credit. The other change involves a one year introductory offer to new ke...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 with their likelihood to recommend the supplier to friends or family. The companies were also given separate ratings on a range of ...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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. Making commission arrangements transparent. Sites must explain clearly that they earn commission on tariffs that customers can switch to di...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 at extremely short notice  helps guarantee the lights stay on. So what is it? The station consists of a network of small independ...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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. Regulated energy companies are expected to set prices for longish periods - typically around a year. They can adjust them at shorter interva...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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. 

If you are on the least competitive rate available on the market and you switch to SSE Airtricity’s ...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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 average household. But a joint paper from the Regulator and DETI released just before Christmas spells out just how the figure...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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, trumping the effect of gas, electricity and coal whose costs are rising modestly as winter stokes up demand.  Past form had suggeste...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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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% since June as a glut on global markets forced several big producers to cut asking prices. The combination of weak demand and surplus oi...

Last updated on 11/05/2016
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Key Information

Renewables

Electric cars, solar panels, ground source heat pumps and wood burning stoves. The ways to cut your contribution to global warming are many and growing. What should you do and how much will it cost you? Click here for advice, tips and debate.

Home heating costs compared

Switching from one form of central heating to another is a challenging decision. Should you stay or should you go. It’s worthwhile checking how different fuels compare in price though past results are no guarantee of future performance.

Compare Prices

Our calculator will assist you search for the tariff that suits your needs. Just answer the questions to find out how suppliers are ranked on cost. Then check what bonuses and penalties may apply. But before switching, you should read our terms and condit



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