There has been a big increase in the use of prepaid electricity meters in Ireland over the past 2 to 3 years. The idea of prepaying using meters was initially aimed at people on lower incomes who may struggle to budget for large bills. But it seems the use of pre-pay meters is more widespread now.
With a pre-pay meter, you can only use the electricity you have paid for. Therefore, in theory, it is easier to control your usage because you have to keep topping the meter up.
Many landlords also seem to like the idea of pre-pay meters for their rental properties. A prepay meter means they don’t have any worries about outstanding electricity bills for tenants.
Pre pay meters always end up being more expensive.
Normally – when you are on a pre-payment meter you will be put on the supplier’s highest tariff.
But if you could stick with a standard “credit” meter you would be able to get a wider choice of tariffs. For example, you would be able to take advantage of the cheap introductory offers, direct debit discounts and more.
How Much More Does Pre-paid Electricity Cost?
There are 2 companies that specialise in offering only pre-paid electricity in Ireland. They are Prepay Power and Pinergy.
Both companies will install a prepay meter for no upfront fee if you switch to them. But they could end up costing you a lot more overall.
The basic unit rate they charge is 21.43 per kWh – which is more than the Electric Ireland “Standard Rate” of 19.9c.
They also add on an annual standing/service charge of just over €290.
So that means someone using Pinergy who consumed the average (4200kwh a year) amount of electricity would end up paying €1280 a year.
For comparison – the same electricity usage would work out at just €780 over the first 12 months if they switched to the current cheapest electricity deal .
That’s a difference of €500 over the first year. For people on low incomes – that is a very significant amount.
Prepay Power charge a €338 service/standing charge annually – but have a slightly lower unit rate than Pinergy (19.86c) . Using the average 4200 kwh in a year with PrePayPower would cost €1261.
All prices include VAT – checked Feb 2021
See more details here of the current Lowest Electricity Prices
Pre Paid Electricity – A summary.
Most of the major energy providers will usually try and make customers get prepaid electricity meters installed if they are in large amounts of arrears. This is to help stop the arrears from increasing any more. (Installation is free in these cases).
Bord Gáis Energy, Electric Ireland, Energia, Flogas and SSE Airtricity provide free PAYG meters for financial hardship for both electricity and gas.
Most of the electricity suppliers (Electric Ireland, Energia . SSE Airtricity, Bord Gais Energy ) should install a pre-pay electricity meter for any customer that requests it – but there is normally a charge for it if the customer is requesting it . (At least €100) .
The use of prepay meters might encourage people to use less electricity or gas (especially if they keep running out of credit !) But – in our opinion – for most people , it makes more sense to switch to the electricity supplier offering the lowest price deal – and then try and be pro-active about cutting down electricity usage rather than getting a prepaid electric meter installed.
Of course in a rented property, if your landlord has installed a pre-pay meter you may have no choice sadly .
How Does Pre Payment Electricity Work?
Pre Payments are not made with cash – but they are usually by the use of a payment card which can be topped up at many shops or over the phone with debit cards or credit cards.
The pay as you go meters usually allow some emergency supply to continue even if the credit runs out.
For example – if a customer runs out of credit Mon-Thurs: after 4pm the supply will not cut off until 9am the following day.
At weekends – if the credit runs out between 4pm Friday and 9am Monday – the power will not cut off until 9am Monday.
The cost of any power used after the credit ran out will be deducted from the next top up.
See more details here of the current Lowest Electricity Switching Deals in Ireland