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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Shauna Corr

Pre-pay electricity meter emergency credit amount being discussed with suppliers

The emergency credit on pre-pay electricity meters in Northern Ireland is under discussion, we can reveal.

We recently did an experiment to see when electricity would be cut off if a top-up meter ran out. It found all electricity supply to a house serviced by Electric Ireland stopped at -£1, despite the large credits customers are expected to get on their bills in November.

Belfast Live asked Electric Ireland why the supply was cut-off considering this.

Read more: NI facing potential electricity blackouts in coming years

A spokesperson told us: “In Northern Ireland, the keypad top up system is a centralised system controlled by the network operator, not Electric Ireland.

“The rate is currently set at £1 of emergency credit. This is a condition enforced by the technical limitations of the system in NI.

“There have been industry-wide discussions about increasing levels of emergency credit, which Electric Ireland is supportive of. However, any change is dependent on agreement across all suppliers and implementation of this on to the meters which are owned and controlled by the network operator.

“Electric Ireland urges any customer to contact us directly, should they find themselves in a position where they have run out of credit, to avoid automatic disconnection.”

We have since learned that NIE Networks, which manages the system in Northern Ireland, is in discussions with suppliers about the emergency credit amount.

“We are in discussions with the manufacturers to see if this limit can be increased,” a spokesperson told us.

While NIE Networks “is responsible for the installation and technical operation of the electricity meters” they say “suppliers determine the policy and tariffs in relation to the supply of electricity and the meters”.

Suppliers are in discussions with NIE Networks about emergency credit settings (Shauna Corr)

“When the customer’s keypad meter runs out of money (the meter buzzer sounds a warning at this point) they have a window during which to purchase a supplier top up (online or from a point of sale),” they added.

“The free vend is invoked by pressing the zero key on the keypad and will be debited off the next customer vend by the relevant supplier.

“The meter will not disconnect during the evening, weekends or bank holidays even if the customer has zero credit on their meter. As soon as any of these windows pass, the buzzer will sound as described above.

“The price of electricity supplied by keypad or credit meters, and the agreed emergency credit allowance, is determined by the supplier.”


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