As part of the EU Clean Energy Package, EU Directive 2019/944 (the Directive) enhanced the rights of EU electricity customers when contracting with electricity suppliers. It also provided for “dynamic electricity contract pricing” to be implemented in all member states.
The European Union (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulations 2022 (S.I. 20/2022) (the 2022 Regulations), which came into effect in January 2022, implemented the Directive into Irish law. While this was primarily done by way of amendments to the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 (the Act), and the European Communities (Internal Market in Electricity) Regulations 2000-2008, the 2022 Regulations themselves endure as a source of rights and obligations regarding some of the more advanced, consumer-related aspects of the EU Clean Energy Package.
Free choice of electricity supplier
Regulation 6 establishes that Irish electricity customers shall be free to purchase electricity from a supplier of their choice, as well as having “more than one electricity supply contract at the same time” so long as the required connection and metering points are established.
Enhanced contractual rights
Regulation 12 refers to the entitlement to customers to have a “dynamic electricity price contract”, which is defined as:
“an electricity supply contract between a supplier and a final customer that reflects the price variation in the spot markets, including in the day-ahead and intraday markets, at intervals at least equal to the market settlement frequency…”
Dynamic electricity price contracts, also known as “time of day pricing” contracts, are facilitated by smart meters. They allow the sculpting of electricity prices across the day, in the hope of incentivising consumers to modify their behaviour so that electricity demand is moved away from existing peak periods.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has been given oversight of the electricity market to ensure that customers understand the opportunities, risks and costs that are associated with dynamic electricity price contracts, including the requirement to have an adequate electricity meter installed.
Regulation 13 establishes that customers have the right to switch to another supplier within the shortest time possible. The 2022 Regulations provide that a customer shall be entitled to switch within three weeks at the latest but by 2026, this timeframe will be shortened to 24 hours on any working day. Termination charges may still be charged by suppliers for contracts ending early, but these charges must be proportionate and shall not exceed the direct economic loss to the supplier.
Regulation 14 requires the CRU to ensure that customers with expected annual electricity consumption of less than 100,000kWh shall have access, free of charge, to at least one tool for comparing the offering of electric suppliers. Electricity suppliers are required to refer to the comparison tools in their bills.
Bills and billing information
Regulation 15 requires that the CRU, through licence conditions, places obligations on electricity suppliers to ensure that:
- Bills and billing information are accurate, easy to understand, clear, concise, user friendly and presented in a manner that facilitates comparisons by customers
- Customers, on request, shall receive a clear and understandable explanation of how their bill was derived, especially where bills are not based on actual consumption
- Customers are offered the option of electronic bills and billing information and are offered flexible arrangements for the payment of bills
- Where a contract provides for a future change of a product or price, or a discount that this shall be indicated on the bill together with the date on which the change is to take place
- Consumer organisations are engaged as part of the consideration of changes to the requirements for the content of bills, and
- Bills and billing information fulfil the minimum requirements set out in Annex 1 of the Directive
Annex 1 of the Directive establishes minimum requirements for billing and billing information. It establishes the key information that must be on bills and billing information along with a breakdown of prices, information on historical consumption and the disclosure of energy sources.
Integration of electromobility into the electricity network
Regulation 20(1) requires the CRU to “ensure the facilitation by the distribution system operator” of electric vehicle recharging points on the electricity distribution networks, both publicly accessible and private.
Regulation 20(2) obliges the distribution system operator to co-operate on a non-discriminatory basis with any undertaking that owns, develops, operates or manages recharging points for electric vehicles.
If an electricity supplier or distribution system operator is not satisfactorily complying with the 2022 Regulations, Regulation 25 empowers the CRU to issue a direction, in writing, specifying remedial actions that the offending party is required to take. These powers are supplemented by the ability of the CRU to apply to the High Court in order to achieve compliance with any direction that is made.
The empowerment of electricity consumers has been a feature of the EU Clean Energy Package since its enactment in 2019. The specific enabling provisions have now found their way into Irish law, although notably, a number of these provisions reside in the 2022 Regulations instead of having been added to the Act and 2000-2008 Regulations, along with the main body of Irish electricity law.
Would-be Irish “pro-sumers” and their advocates, as well as licensed Irish electricity suppliers and any Irish consumers seeking to adopt more sophisticated methods of managing their electricity consumption, are now best advised to become familiar with the 2022 Regulations.
For more information, please contact a member of our Energy team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.