Competition in the electricity utilities market in Northern Ireland is still in its relative infancy compared to other markets. In 2009 there was a proposal to deregulate the retail electricity market which was eventually implemented in 2014. The objective of deregulation was to increase choice for Northern Irish consumers, provide further downward pressure on retail prices and to stimulate innovation in new retail products.
To date there are 6 key players in the Northern Irish Electricity market servicing the population of 1, 89 million.
When the market opened in 2009, Power NI, was the incumbent that remained the dominant supplier for a few years. In 2010 SSE joined the market, followed by Budget Energy in 2011, Click and Electric Ireland in 2015 and most recently Bright Energy in 2021.
Before 2015, Electric Ireland, based in Belfast, only supplied energy to businesses. Having worked with Electric Ireland in ROI, and to support their move into the NI retail market, FMI set up our Belfast office. FMI recruited a local team with the aim of establishing and growing the Electric Ireland brand in Northern Ireland so as to help attract and retain new customers.
Over the last 6 years, thanks to a dedicated local sales team, attending and hosting key events and securing strong strategic sponsorship, such as the Game Changer Sponsorship of women’s football across all levels in Northern Ireland, the Electric Ireland brand is firmly established in NI and has a growing market share of 11%. In 2019, The Which? Annual Energy Company Customer Satisfaction Survey, which aims to provide unbiased and independent advice to consumers across a number of consumer markets, put Electric Ireland at the top of the list, based on Value for Money and the availability of Digital Tools.
Over the years, FMI NI has worked hard to establish a scaled version of the Electric Ireland Team in Dublin. The NI team consists of Field Sales Agents who cover select areas, including Belfast and the greater Belfast region, Back-office sales support, a customer retention team, local contact centre support agents, a compliance person, as well as an account manager and a senior account executive. A local team with a thorough understanding of the market and culture has been crucial in establishing trust with customers and in representing the Electric Ireland brand in an authentic and trustworthy way.
As with any open market, the competition is driven on price promotions and effective customer service. There are two primary products on the market, namely: Prepay or Keypad, which accounts for approximately 45% of the market, and as the name may suggest, involves the consumers being able to top up their electricity as and when required. BillPay or Direct Debit is the second method, which makes up 55% of the market, and is a monthly billing solution. All Electric Ireland customer support is provided from the FMI Belfast office, which means that our teams are able to personally follow up with visits to customers at home, if required.
According to The Which? Survey, there remains some hesitancy from NI respondents to switch suppliers, as they don’t see the immediate benefit of doing so. Yet, as the market becomes more informed, this mind-set is gradually changing.
According to the Northern Ireland Utility Regulator, electricity prices are among the lowest in Europe, making the competition greater than ever. We, at FMI, look forward to seeing how the market evolves over the coming years, and to further supporting Electric Ireland in this region.