How is gas and electricity in Northern Ireland different to GB?
Although Northern Ireland is in the United Kingdom, the gas and electricity framework that exists throughout Scotland, England and Wales does not extend out to Northern Ireland. It does, however, run a similar operation to the other countries in the United Kingdom, just through their own, separate means; they still run a transmission and distribution network just like in the rest of the United Kingdom, and to an extent the commercial residential energy market is deregulated.
The electricity transmission network in Northern Ireland is owned and operated by ‘Northern Ireland Electricity Networks’, consisting of around 2,200km of overhead high voltage lines. These are the large pylons that carry electricity cross-country at extremely high voltages. The entire Northern Irish electricity transmission system runs between 220 kV - 299 kV. It also has four interconnector supplies, three coming from the Republic of Ireland and one from Scotland.
The distribution network in Northern Ireland is owned and operated by Northern Ireland Electricity Networks, just like the transmission network. This network is made up of around 47,000km of low and medium voltage cable, allowing the 860,000 households supplied to boil their kettles. There are two parts to the Northern Ireland electricity distribution network: a low voltage 11kV network; and a medium voltage 33kV network. The below images illustrate their coverage:
- If you would like to see these images in high resolution in more detail click below:
- 11kV network
- 33kV network
Unlike the abundance of choice that exists in Great Britain, Northern Ireland only has five electricity providers to choose from. These are also completely separate from gas supply. Northern Ireland is undergoing an extremely staggered and gradual deregulation process. It is also subject to an extremely awkward geographical situation being linked to the Republic of Ireland, yet part of the United Kingdom, thus not having a clear market position.
The following companies are those that are currently active on the electricity residential market. Click on any of their names to see contact information for each company:
The gas transmission network in Northern Ireland consists of five pipelines, three that are owned by Mutual Energy and two that are owned by Gas Networks Ireland. All the gas that is consumed within Northern Ireland comes through one of those pipes, and that pipe is the interconnector ‘Scotland-Northern Ireland Pipeline’ (SNIP), meaning all gas in Northern Ireland comes from Scotland. At present natural gas is not available in the west of Northern Ireland; however, it is in the works to be developed and extended there. The map below illustrates the existing and potential gas transmission network:
Gas distribution in Northern Ireland is currently split into two territories; however, as the new transportation network develops in the west, ‘SGN’ will become the third gas distributor in the country. The following table shows the current divisions:
|Phoenix Natural Gas||Greater Belfast & Larne|
|Firmus Energy||Antrim, Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Newry, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine, Limavady & Derry|
The domestic gas market in Northern Ireland is quite a lot different to the rest of the United Kingdom. There are only two suppliers in the whole country and only two areas actually have the ability to switch. At present, only Greater Belfast and Larne have the ability to choose who supplies their natural gas; however, even so, there is only two to choose from. The incumbent supplier for these two areas is SSE Airtricity Gas, although if they so wish, they are able to switch to Firmus Energy or switch between tariffs within the two companies. All other areas of Northern Ireland (those who are eligible for natural gas), however, do not have the ability to choose their gas provider. They are stuck with their incumbent Firmus Energy tariff.