In the last few days our two natural gas suppliers, SSE Airtricity Gas and firmus energy, have both announced prices will fall from the beginning of October. Good news for the nearly 200k homes connected to natural gas.
A price drop always feels better than a price hike and it is welcome reductions will be in place just before the colder winter months when we use more energy. The detail of the price drops sounds simple and straightforward but as always there is a little more to this than first meets the eye. So in this ‘Power to Switch’ blog we explain how the gas network works and the choices customers have.…
The Natural Gas Network
The first thing to realise is that the gas network in Northern Ireland is split into two distinct areas. These are known as the ‘Phoenix Natural Gas’ network and the ‘Ten Towns’ network
The Phoenix Natural Gas network covers Greater Belfast which takes in Lisburn, Newtownabbey, North Down and Larne. As would be expected this network has the most homes connected (around 170k) and customers have a choice between two suppliers – SSE Airtricity Gas and firmus energy.
The ‘Ten Towns’ network is owned by firmus energy and covers areas between Derry/Londonderry through to Newry and Armagh. The name ‘Ten Towns’ probably doesn’t reflect how the network has developed over the years as homes in many other areas such as Bushmills, Lurgan, Templepatrick, for example, are now also able to connect.
There are around 25,000 homes connected in the ‘Ten Towns’ network and currently they can only be supplied by firmus energy. Since April 2015 other gas suppliers are able to enter the market and provide choice – PowertoSwitch will keep an eye on this and update our site when new suppliers and deals become available.
So what are the price changes….
Firstly the price changes in the Phoenix Natural Gas area:
SSE Airtricity will be reducing prices by 10per cent from 1st October
firmus energy will also be reducing prices by 10per cent from 5th October
For a typical consumer this will mean a saving of around £58 on an annual bill. All gas customers will benefit from this reduction and will see their bill fall. And for customers in this network they can easily compare deals and switch especially if you use ‘powertoswitch’
For customers in the ‘Ten Towns’:
firmus energy will be reducing prices by 5 per cent from 1st October
For a typical customer this will mean a saving of around £31 on their annual bill.
The SSE Airtricity tariff in the Phoenix Natural Gas area and firmus energy tariff in the Ten Towns area are approved by the Utility Regulator. This means all the costs and charges are independently checked and agreed. As these are separate networks there are different costs and allowances involved which explains why there is a difference in the price reductions.
How easy is it to switch supplier
Gas customers in Greater Belfast can choose between Firmus Energy and SSE Airtricity as their natural gas supplier. ‘powertoswitch’ can help you quickly and easily find if there is a better deal for your home.
If you find a better deal switching is easy. Your new supplier will start the switching process and deal with all the paperwork. You have a ten working days ‘cooling off period’ if you change your mind for any reason. The switch must be completed within 15 working days after this cooling off period, unless you have a longer notice period to give to your old supplier.
For natural gas you will need your Supply Meter Point (SMP) Reference Number, which can be found on your paper or online bill but if you cant find it your new supplier should be able to help.
And remember there will be no interruption to your supply because you switch or any changes to your meter, your wiring, pipework or connection.
If you can’t switch supplier…
If you currently do not have a choice over who supplies gas to your home there are a number of things you can do to lower your bill. This could include switching your meter (Pay as you Go or credit) as there may be different tariffs available. Also suppliers often offer their best rates for customers who choose to pay by direct debit and receive bills by email or online.