Electricity: getting connected or switching
You can choose which private company you want to supply your home with electricity. Suppliers offer a range of services and deals and different options on how to pay. Many energy suppliers provide both electricity and gas.
ESB Networks (ESBN) operates and maintains the electricity network. You need to contact ESBN if you are connecting to the electricity grid for the first time, or if you are disconnecting completely.
But in most cases, your day-to-day electricity needs will be met by your electricity supplier.
This page explains how to connect to an electricity service or how to switch suppliers. You can read more about paying your electricity bills, including where to get help if you’re struggling to pay.
Getting an electricity connection
If you are moving into a property that has never been connected before, or one that has been disconnected for more than 2 years, you need to apply to an electricity supplier for a domestic supply agreement. The CRU keeps a list of licensed energy suppliers.
When you have picked a supplier, contact ESBN and give the following information:
- Your name and contact details
- The Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) and Maximum Import Capacity (MIC) for your new home – available from the builder or developer
- The address of your home
- The name of your chosen electricity supplier
Your supplier will then contact ESBN to ask that your electricity connection is turned on. ESBN will also arrange for your meter to be installed. The builder's electrician will switch on the electricity supply in your home.
ESBN has more information about electricity connections for a new single house and electricity connections for new homes in a housing or apartment development.
The CRU has information on changing your energy supplier.
Will I need to pay a security deposit?
Your electricity supplier is allowed to charge a deposit. Each supplier has its own deposit policy, which must be fair, transparent and reasonable. The deposit must be returned in the bill you get after your contract ends (your contracted period is usually 12 months). Your supplier must tell you if you are at risk of losing your deposit and describe the steps to take to improve your credit terms.
If you are on a low income and cannot afford to pay a deposit, check if you are eligible for help from your local INTREO office.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) Electricity and gas supplier’s handbook (pdf) has more information about security deposits (on page 27).
What if I move?
If you are leaving a property, contact your electricity supplier to let them know you are moving and give them a last meter reading so that they can send you a final bill.
When you are moving into a house that was previously occupied and still has an electricity connection, take a meter reading when you move in. Then, contact a service supplier to set up a new account. If you are renting, your landlord may have to contact the electricity supplier on your behalf.
If the house has been disconnected, you need to find out how long it has been disconnected. To do this, contact ESBN and provide your MPRN or meter number. If the disconnection has been:
- Less than 6 months - You should register as a customer with an electricity supplier who will organise reconnection to the network with ESBN
- Between 6 months and 2 years - You should register as a customer with an electricity supplier and arrange for a registered electrical contractor to check the wiring and provide a certificate of completion to their approved regulatory body. When ESBN has received a verified certificate, your supplier can then arrange for reconnection.
- More than 2 years – Apply to ESBN for a new connection
ESBN has more information about reconnecting electricity supply.
Switching electricity supplier
If you are not happy with your current electricity supplier, you can switch supplier. Check if you are in a fixed term contract. If you are, you may be charged for switching to another supplier. As there are many suppliers to choose from, it is important to do your research to find the best option to suit your needs.
Before you switch:
- Check your current bill to see what your usage is, the average amount you pay and how payment is taken
- Find out when your contract with your current supplier ends
- Use a price comparison website
- Try to renegotiate with your current supplier
- Make sure you have your MPRN number (located on your current bill) and an up-to-date meter reading for the new supplier
The new supplier will notify the old supplier that you will be changing over. The CRU has more information about switching supplier.
What if I change my mind?
If you switch to a new supplier but then change your mind, you can cancel the contract if you signed up less than 14 days ago over the phone, online or at your doorstep. This is called a ‘cooling-off’ period.
Find out more about your consumer rights.
Rules suppliers must follow
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is the regulator of the electricity industry.
The CRU has a role to protect energy customers and to promote competition. It does this by putting in place a rulebook called the Supplier Handbook (pdf). Suppliers must have codes of practices covering how they will deal with consumers.
The codes must cover:
- Customer sign-up
- Marketing and advertising
- Complaint handling
- Vulnerable customers
- Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) and budget controllers
- Non-domestic customers
Suppliers must have Customer Charters setting out:
- Guaranteed service levels for customers
- Compensation and refund arrangements when service quality levels are not met
Every supplier must publish its customer charter and codes on its website. Read more about the regulation of utilities.
How to complain
If you have a problem, first contact either:
- Your electricity supplier for issues around billing, account problems, marketing or advertising, or changing supplier
- ESB Networks for problems including a faulty meter, connection costs, emergencies, outages, or connection delays
If you cannot sort out the problem informally, you can complain in writing to either your supplier or the network provider.
If you are not satisfied with the response from the provider, you can:
CRU has more energy information in its dedicated customer information section.
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