Posted on Friday 16 September 2011 by Ulster Business
ESBIE – which is in the process of rebranding to Electric Ireland – is owned by ESB, the biggest residential electricity supplier in the Republic of Ireland. In 2000 it started supplying business customers in Northern Ireland, and now holds a 38% share of the market for large businesses and 22 per cent for SMEs.
Susan Kinane, Managing Director of ESBIE Electric Ireland (pictured), told journalists that it now made “perfect sense” for the company to look at the residential market in Northern Ireland because that sector it was the “missing link” in its all-island market offering.
“We are keen to get into the market on a pilot basis by the end of the year,” she said. “We would be looking at having around 5,000 customers initially by the middle of 2012. But we don’t yet know what appetite there would be for switching.”
ESB has opted for an “under the radar” launch as it said there are still a number of technical system issues it needs to resolve regarding the switching process but it is confident these should be resolved by mid-2012.
Airtricity provided the first domestic competition to incumbent supplier Power NI when it entered the market last year. Ms Kinane declined to say how much her company’s initial offering would be but said the company would have to be cheaper than Power NI in order to convince people to move supplier – which could mean taking a loss to win customers.
“If we want to acquire market share we are going to have to offer competitive products, and when I say competitive it is with a capital C. Just matching Power NI is not going to do it for people,” she said.
At some point ESB also plans to look at the possibility of supplying natural gas to customers in Greater Belfast so it is able to provide a dual fuel option similar to what it offers in the Republic. Ms Kinane also said that it was a big deal for the company to rebrand because the ESB name has been around since 1927. The move follows deregulation in the Irish market and the ESB name will be dropped completely from January 1.