Electricity supply in Ireland is privatised. This means that you can choose which private company you want to supply your home with electricity. Suppliers offer a range of services and deals, including a variety of payment arrangements, to their customers. Many energy suppliers provide both electricity and gas.
ESB Networks (ESBN) is responsible for operating and maintaining the electricity network in Ireland. You will need to contact ESBN if you are connecting to the electricity grid for the first time, or if you are disconnecting completely. You might also give meter readings to ESBN.
But in most cases, your day-to-day electricity needs will be met by your electricity supplier. Here we explain how to connect to an electricity service, how the system works and what to do if something goes wrong.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is the regulator of the electricity industry.
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 will first 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, you should then 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.
What if I move?
If you are leaving a property, you should 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, you should take a meter reading when you move in. You can 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 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 – You will have to apply to ESBN for a new connection
ESBN has more information about reconnecting electricity supply.
Will I need to pay a security deposit when I open a new account or move supplier?
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 should be returned in the bill that you receive after your contract ends (your contracted period is usually 12 months). Your supplier should tell you if you are at risk of losing your deposit and describe the steps you should take to improve your credit terms.
If you are on a low income and cannot afford to pay a deposit, you may be eligible for assistance from your local INTREO office.
The CRU’s Electricity and gas supplier’s handbook (pdf) has more information about security deposits (at page 27).
Electricity meter reading
Your electricity meter measures the amount of electricity that you use and the readings are used to calculate the amount that you are charged by your electricity supplier.
An ESBN reader will call to the premises to record the amount of electricity used since the meter was last read. This is done 4 times a year. An estimated reading will be used for the other billing periods.
If the meter reader cannot get access to the meter, they will leave a card in the mailbox letting you know they were there and asking you to send in your own reading. You can also submit your meter reading directly to your supplier. If you do not submit a reading an estimated reading will be used to calculate your next bill.
Meters are the property of ESBN and must not be interfered with in any way. Only authorised people are allowed to fix, connect, remove or carry out work on any meter, main fuse box, seal, electric line or other apparatus belonging to ESBN. It is against the law to tamper with your meter. You can find out more about meter tampering.
CRU has more information about electricity meter reading.
Since 2019, ESB Networks has been fitting homes and businesses with smart meters. Smart meters are the next generation of electricity meters and it is planned that all homes in Ireland will be fitted with smart meters by the end of 2024.
Smart meters will automatically communicate your electricity usage to your supplier, so there will be no more estimated bills. You will also have more information on your electricity usage than is available from current meters.
It is planned to replace the oldest meters with the new smart meters, however you can contact your electricity supplier or ESBN to apply for a prioritised installation. There will be no upfront charge to have a smart meter installed.
You can read more about the National Smart Metering Programme (NSMP).
Understanding your bill
When you sign up to an electricity supplier, you should receive regular and accurate bills. However, it can sometimes be difficult to understand the bill, in particular how the amount you owe is calculated.
Your supplier must include information about how it has calculated your bill. This includes the meter reading upon which the bill is based, the tariff category that applies and any levies that are being applied to the bill. CRU has more information about understanding electricity bills.
A bill is usually sent by your electricity supplier every 2 months. It should be clearly marked whether the meter read used to calculate your bill amount was:
- A – an actual meter read by ESBN
- C – a read submitted by you the customer
- E – an estimated meter reading
You should check your bill to make sure that you are not getting too many estimated bills in a row as this could result in a large bill when an actual reading is taken. You can check your meter and submit your own reading at any time to ensure accurate billing. ESBN has information about how to submit an electricity meter reading.
Suppliers have to give you a range of options for paying your bills (for example, by direct debit, paying online with your card or pay at shops displaying payzone logo). You should contact you supplier to find out what option suits you.
Switching electricity supplier
If you are not happy with your current electricity supplier, you can switch supplier. You should 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 you should:
- 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.
You can find out more about your consumer rights.
What can I do if I am struggling to pay my bills?
If you are in arrears or having difficulties paying your electricity bills, you should get help. You can:
- Make an appointment with the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS)
- Speak to your supplier to discuss payment options
- Call to your local Citizens Information Service
Your electricity supply could be cut off if you do not pay your bills.
Alternative payments plans
The supplier may, with your agreement, arrange for an alternative payment plan to be put in place. Suppliers must help you if you are in genuine financial difficulty. They must make at least 4 attempts to contact you before they disconnect your electricity.
Vulnerable customers who are registered as priority services customers cannot be disconnected.
Elderly vulnerable customers who have problems paying their bills cannot be disconnected during the winter months (November to March).
Social welfare assistance
If you are aged over 70, you can avail of the electricity allowance as part of the Household Benefits package. Some people under 70 may also qualify if they meet certain criteria.
The CRU has more information about disconnection and your rights.
What other protections do I have?
The CRU has a role to make sure energy customers are protected and to promote competition. It does this by putting in place a rulebook called the Supplier Handbook. This requires suppliers to have codes of practices in place setting out how they will deal with consumers. These codes cover the following areas:
- Customer sign-up
- Marketing and advertising
- Complaints handling
- Vulnerable customers
- Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) and budget controllers
- Non-domestic customers
Suppliers must have Customer Charters in place 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. You can read more about the regulation of utilities.
How to make a complaint
If you have a problem, you should first contact either:
- Your electricity supplier for issues around billing, account problems, marketing or advertising, or changing supplier, or
- 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 put your complaint in writing to either your supplier or the network provider.
If you are not satisfied with the response from the provider, you have the following options:
CRU has more energy information in its dedicated customer information section.