Power NI is the chief electricity supplier in Northern Ireland, covering around 60% of its internal domestic market - that’s a little under half a million customers - and having operated nigh on 90 years.
Notably, an asserted customer-first approach has underpinned its price and tariff practises, which centre around consultation with and approval from the Utility Regulator - an independent government department accountable to the Northern Ireland Assembly. In doing this, Power NI is quite unique, however this practise doesn’t necessarily translate into cheap and cheery prices.
Power NI summary
|Electricity: Coal, natural gas, renewable, peat, other||No fixed-term/fixed-rate contracts|
|Fuel mix score: ★||No penalties for leaving|
|Domestic market: Northern Ireland||Discounts on all tariffs|
|Customers: 500,000||Good customer reviews|
|Selectra score: ★★||Heavy reliance on natural gas|
About Power NI
Until 2011 the Northern Ireland provider was known as NIE Energy (Northern Ireland Electricity Energy) and used the same branding as its former sister electricity transmission and distribution company, Northern Ireland Electricity Networks (now owned by ESB). It rebranded as Power NI due to EU regulations requiring distinct identities and branding for separate operator undertakings - i.e. transmission and distribution, and supply.
The history of Power NI predates the formation of the Energia Group and has roots in the consolidation of Northern Ireland’s electricity sector in 1973, which precipitated Northern Ireland Electricity.
A short history
Prior to 1973, electricity in Northern Ireland was supplied, managed and regulated by a cohort of local, commercial and state-run organisations. These included:
- The Belfast Corporation Electricity Department
- The Londonderry Corporation Electricity Department
- The Electricity Board for Northern Ireland
- The Northern Ireland Joint Electricity Authority.
The Electricity Supply (Northern Ireland) Order of 1972 - passed through Westminster legislative procedure, although originally moved in the Northern Ireland Parliament before its indefinite suspension in 1972 - reorganised Northern Ireland’s electricity industry. This vital piece of legislation agglomerated the Electricity Board, Authority and NI distributors, and created the Northern Ireland Electricity Service.
The market deregulation zeal of the Thatcher years saw the opening up of the energy market in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, as set in law by the Energy Act 1983 and Electricity Act 1989. These Acts were followed by the privatisation of the Northern Ireland Electricity Service in 1992.
In 1998 NIE reorganised by separating out its transmission operations and placing itself and its newly distinct operations under a holding company named Viridian Group (now Energia Group), allowing it to enter new markets to which it was previously restricted by regulation. This paved the way for NIE Networks (transmission and distribution) and NIE Energy (supply), and subsequently Power NI.
- 1931: Electricity Board for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Joint Electricity Authority created.
- 1972: The Electricity Supply (Northern Ireland) Order of 1972 creates the Northern Ireland Electricity Service.
- 1983: The Energy Act 1983 opens the electricity market for competition from non-state run services, though to very little effect in Northern Ireland.
- 1989: The Electricity Act 1989 sets further structures for deregulation.
- 1992/1993: Northern Ireland Electricity Service becomes Northern Ireland Electricity plc (NIE); NIE sells its four electricity power stations in Ballylumford, Kilroot, Belfast West and Coolkeeragh; NIE is floated on the London Stock Exchange.
- 1998: NIE separates its transmission operations from the rest of its activities and places itself and its distinct operations under holding company Viridian Group. This creates NIE Energy.
- 2007: NIE Energy is placed under separate Viridian subsidiary to ensure compliance with EU directive requiring independence of distribution operations. NIE retains transmission and distribution (NIE Networks); The Single Electricity Market (SEM) for the island of Ireland is established, designed to increase competition and reliability of supply via a single supply pool for the whole island.
- 2011: The Energia Group sells Northern Ireland Electricity Networks (transmission and distribution) to ESB; NIE Energy is rebranded as Power NI.
From state-run to private enterprise, Power NI has kept its hegemony as the largest electricity supplier in Northern Ireland, with over 60% of the market share. Its favourable position is perhaps solidified by the flexibility it affords customers - for example, no fixed-term/fixed-rate contracts and no penalties or exit fees for switching from Power NI to another supplier, making it a relatively safe place for the consumer.
However, as the trend in the energy market goes, the greater the market dominance, the greater the wiggle room to frustrate customers. The latter is most easily achieved through price hikes. In Power NI’s case, its customers have seen a 6.1% increase in price since October, despite a reported 38% fall in wholesale electricity prices.
The other sticking point is renewables. Power NI's parent company, the Energia Group, markets itself as green-forward with a focus on renewable technology, something which is certainly reflected by its supplier in the Republic of Ireland, Energia, though not so much by Power NI. This, however, may soon change as the Energia Group has committed to a £40m renewable gas plant in Belfast.
With that said, let’s take a look at Power NI’s fuel mix.
The Energia Group’s renewable onus hasn’t quite made it across to Power NI. The Northern Ireland supplier relies heavily on natural gas; renewables coming in a distant second.
Power NI conforms to the general trend across the UK and in the Republic of Ireland - natural gas first, renewables second.
Having said that, it’s important to note Power NI’s use of natural gas goes well beyond both the UK average and the all-island Ireland average, while its use of renewables is below the renewable averages of both. For this reason, we’re giving it a fuel mix score of 1/5 stars.
Power NI: fuel mix - ★
Power NI tariffs & prices
There are two factors governing the price and tariff practises of Power NI, which we’ve mentioned before in brief. They are as follows:
- There are no fixed-term/fixed-rate contracts.
- Power NI’s energy unit price and tariffs are approved by Northern Ireland’s Utility Regulator.
All Power NI tariffs are variable tariffs, meaning that tariff unit rates are subject to change at any time throughout the duration of your plan. Unlike other providers, however, Power NI has to get approval from the Utility Regulator before it can change its prices.
In addition, customers are not required to make security deposits - or deposits of any kind - when they sign up to any plan and they won’t receive any standing charges (with the exception of Economy 7 customers) or incur any hidden fees or exit fees.
Before we go into the details of all the available tariffs, a quick note on Power NI’s partnership with the Utility Regulator and the processes used to determine the tariffs available to domestic customers.
Northern Ireland’s Utility Regulator periodically conducts Power NI price control reviews in consultation with the Consumer Council and the Department for the Economy. In these reviews, the maximum average charge and retail tariffs (derived from the maximum average charge) for domestic electricity consumers are assessed and decided.
Pricing is assessed with recourse to wholesale electricity prices, levies and Power NI’s operations costings forecast - which includes the cost of purchasing and supplying electricity, as well as the general cost of running the business.
The Utility Regulator approves retail tariffs, business costings and also sets the profit margin Power NI is allowed to make from its domestic customers.
This process ensures that customers pay no more than the “efficient cost” of purchasing and supplying electricity, as well as running a profitable business.
October 2019 reviewThe October 2019 Power NI price control review resulted in an increase of 6.1% to the standard rate for domestic customers as of 1 October. The Utility Regulator has estimated that this will add £35 per annum to customer bills. The reasons cited for the increase include carbon costs, the cost of running the electricity network, a drop in consumer demand and an increase in wholesale prices.
Tariffs & discounts
There are, in total, five variable tariffs to choose from: pay-as-you-go, online-only, two direct-debit tariffs, the standard tariff and Economy 7. Below you’ll find further detail on the terms and pricing of each.
It’s worth noting that the discrepancies in price per unit of each tariff is the result of applied discounts, which differ for every tariff and are applied to the standard unit price.
If you're thinking about switching to Power NI, be sure to get a quote online by clicking the button below to find out if you're getting the best deal. Use our energy consumption estimator beforehand so that you can get an accurate quote.
Power NI’s Standard tariff puts the standard rate per kWh (unit rate) at 18.74p (incl. VAT), as set out in the latest October price control review. At this price, customers are looking at a yearly bill of £599.68, based on the typical medium yearly consumption of 3,200 kWh.
Average electricity consumptionPlease be aware that electricity consumption depends on various factors, such as the size of your house or flat and insulation. Your average yearly consumption may vary and, therefore, your yearly cost of electricity may be higher or lower than the price quoted in this article.
Customers can choose to receive their bills through the post or online and can pay upon receiving them via the following methods:
- By phone
- Through the Power NI app
- In any Post Office
- At any PayPoint
Those who choose the online billing option will receive a 2% discount on the standard rate, saving them roughly £20 a year. To receive bills online, and thus the discount, customers will have to activate an Energy Online account. More on that below.
|Unit rate per kWh||18.74p (incl. VAT)|
|Yearly average bill||£599.68|
|Discounted yearly average bill||£587.84|
The Direct Debit tariffs offer distinct pricing structures for customers who set up, as suggested by the name, direct debits. Two tariffs are available - the Monthly Direct Debit and the Quarterly Direct Debit.
On the Monthly Direct Debit, customers are charged a unit rate of 17.99p (incl. VAT) - that’s 4% less than the standard rate and about £24 less than the average yearly cost on the Standard tariff.
Payments are spread out monthly and calculated based on a forecast of your yearly consumption, then automatically deducted from your chosen account. Your payments may be adjusted every year to reflect your actual use. If you have used less than you have paid for, you will be credited the difference.
Here, too, customers can save further by setting up an Energy Online account and receiving their bills online rather than through the post. Online billing will save you a further £12 per year.
|Monthly Direct Debit tariff||Cost|
|Unit rate per kWh||17.99p (incl. VAT)|
|Yearly average bill||£575.68|
|Discounted yearly average bill||£563.84|
The Quarterly Direct Debit is slightly more expensive than the Monthly tariff at a unit rate of 18.27p (incl. VAT), yet still cheaper than the standard rate by 2.5% (£15 off the average yearly cost).
Power NI bills its customers quarterly. As such, customers on the Quarterly Direct Debit plan will pay the exact amount for their usage, rather than an estimate as is done on the Monthly plan.
Once again, a discount of 2% is available for receiving bills online through an Energy Online account.
|Unit rate per kWh||18.27p (incl. VAT)|
|Yearly average bill||£584.64|
|Discounted yearly average bill||£572.80|
Keypad is Power NI’s pay as you go plan offering a 2.5% discount on the standard rate whenever you top up, making the unit rate 18.27p. Customers can top up over the phone, at any Post Office or PayPoint, online or through the free Keypad app, which is available in the Apple Store and Google Play. Find out more in our Power NI Top Up guide
Power NI also offers ‘friendly credit’ so that you don’t get left in the dark if you forget to top up or can’t access any top up method. ‘Friendly credit’ applies at select hours, over the weekend and bank holidays.
Additionally, Keypad customers can receive free electricity when they top up £50 or more in one go through the Keypad app or the Power NI website. Below are the reward rates and their corresponding trigger top up amounts.
- £1 free for £50
- £2 free for £80
- £3 free for £125
- £4 free for £150
|Unit rate per kWh||18.74p (incl. VAT)|
|Yearly average bill||£584.64|
With Economy 7, Power NI applies two different unit rates for consumption during the day and during off-peak hours. A reduced unit rate of 10.13p is applied during 1am-8am in the winter and 2am-9am in the summer (off-peak hours). A unit rate of 18.11p applies at all other times.
To sign up to the Economy 7 tariff, you will need a ‘two rate’ meter that records separate usage for standard and off-peak hours. In addition, you will have to pay a daily standing charge of 8.89p (£32.50/year).
|Unit rate per kWh during the day||18.11p (incl. VAT)|
|Unit rate per kWh during off-peak hours||10.13p|
|Standing charge per day||8.89p|
For more information about Economy 7, check out our Economy 7 guide.
Compared to other providers in the market
There are relatively few energy providers in Northern Ireland, making it easier for the consumer to compare and find the best deals. We’ve done just that in the table below (excluding Economy 7 tariffs) using the typical medium yearly consumption of 3,200 kWh.
Power NI sits firmly in the middle, neither the cheapest nor the most expensive - although it’s important to note that Power NI doesn’t issue standing charges, unlike the other providers listed below.
|Provider||Standard rate (yearly charge)||Cheapest tariff (yearly charge)|
|Power NI||£599.68||Monthly Direct Debit + online billing: £563.84|
|Electric Ireland||£586.88||Standard + direct debit +online billing: £576.88|
|Click Energy||£608.35||Bill Pay 24h: £608.35|
|SSE Airtricity||£638.72||Standard DD + eBill: £543.03|
|Budget Energy||£600.65||Bill Pay Budget Bonus: £563.31|
Power NI perks & services
Along with the supply of electricity, Power NI offers a few services and perks that customers can avail of. These are: The Energy Online service, the Power NI app, a Perks account and an export electricity purchase service with the Microgen tariff.
Customers can export electricity generated but not used at their premises back into the grid. The amount exported will be paid for annually by Power NI. To receive payment for exporting electricity, you will need to have an import/export meter installed. The export unit rate (per kWh), as outlined in the Microgen tariff, is 5.10p.
An Energy Online account is not only an efficient way to access your account information, monitor your usage, see available perks, top up or pay bills; it can also save you quite a bit of money. Discounts are applied on every Power NI tariff - with the exception of Keypad - for registering and signing up to online billing through Energy Online.
Energy Online can be accessed through the Power NI mobile app, available in the App Store and Google Play. The app affords you the same functionality as Energy Online through web browser but with the convenience of easy accessibility on the go.
With a Perks account you can access the Power NI rewards scheme. As part of the rewards scheme, you can save on shopping and purchases from select retail brands through top up cards, e-vouchers and cash-back codes.
Getting in touch with Power NI
There are quite a few channels through which you can contact Power NI, each corresponsing to a specific purpose or query. You can find a list of phone numbers, contact forms and other general contact details by heading over to our Power NI contact page.
Power NI Login (Energy Online)
Logging in to your Energy Online account is easy and hassle-free. All you have to do is head over the Power NI website and follow the steps outlined below.
- On the Power NI homepage, click the green ‘Login to Energy Online’ button located in the top right hand corner of the screen.
- Enter your username and password in the relevant fields and hit the ‘Sign in’ button.
Once you’re in, you can access your bills, account information, your Perks account and make a payment if you haven’t set up a direct debit. If you haven’t yet registered for an Energy Online account, you can do so through the login page.
Customer reviews & our verdict
Power NI performs quite well in online review platforms like Trustpilot and Which?, as well as in independent complaints reports, such as that of the Consumer Council. Power NI’s overall standing is positive, though not entirely outstanding.
On Trustpilot, Power NI receives a 4/5 star rating - head and shoulders above its competitor suppliers. 88% of customers rated the supplier Excellent or Great, whereas only 12% rated it Poor or Bad.
The general positive trends touched upon in feedback comments are the efficiency of customer service personnel and the ease of switching. Negative comments aren’t homogeneous enough to pick out trends, although recent issues fixate on a few Power NI app failures.
Over on Which?, Power NI doesn’t fare so well. It comes in at fourth place of six Northern Ireland suppliers. Customer scores aren’t really negative; on the contrary, Power NI receives 3-4 out of 5 star ratings on a variety of categories. It simply gets outdone by its competitors.
Why the difference?The discrepancy between the two review ratings may be explained by methodology. Which? performs an active and independent, systematic review, whereas Trustpilot conveys generalities that may be subject to influence by supplier-customer pressure.
The latest Enquiries and Complaints report from the Consumer Council in Northern Ireland reveals that Power NI received only one complaint per 10,000 customers despite its significant market share - quite unlike Great British suppliers. Only Click Energy received less.
For a supplier with a significant stake in its domestic market, Power NI bucks the GB trend and performs quite well with regard to pricing, reviews and perks. The flexibility it allows customers - no exit fees and no fixed-term contracts - is second to none.
Although the absence of fixed-rate tariffs may leave all Power NI customers vulnerable to price hikes, it doesn’t necessarily constitute a mark against the provider. Fixed-rate tariffs have their own deficiencies and may often charge more than is necessary or required.
Power NI’s major setback is its heavy reliance on natural gas given the industry’s current context, in which renewables are imperative. For that reason, we award Power NI a rating of 2/5 stars.
Power NI Selectra score - ★★