Spanish utility company Iberdrola will spark renewed energy-price competition when it begins selling electricity to Irish homes this week and reveals plans to spend €100 million on wind farms.
Iberdrola has been operating in Ireland for around 20 years through its UK business, Scottishpower, which owns several wind farms here, including Barnesmore in Co Donegal.
The Spanish player will begin selling electricity to domestic customers this week and intends adding natural gas and dual fuel in October, promising more competition in the market.
Iberdrola's move will pitch it against State company ESB, Bord Gáis Energy, owned by British group, Centrica, Airtricity, which is part of Scotland's SSE and Energia, owned by US investor I Squared Capital.
Colin McNeill, chief executive of Iberdrola Ireland and Scottishpower’s retail arm, pledged that the business would compete on price.
“I would say that we would be consistently competitive,” he said. “We will always be in the top three places of the most competitively priced.”
Iberdrola Ireland intends to back its efforts with a marketing campaign, tie-ins with websites that encourage consumers to switch utilities and with sales people on the ground.
The company will employ more than 100 sales staff, along with 10 people in an office in Dublin and 40 more in a services operation in Sligo.
It also intends offering domestic chargers for electric cars, something for which the company believes demand will grow as the cost of the vehicles themselves falls and more drivers buy them.
‘100 per cent green’
The energy market’s latest player is promising that its electricity will be “100 per cent green”, cashing in on consumer’s growing concerns about global warming.
Iberdrola Ireland plans to spend €100 million renewing three of its wind farms boosting the amount of electricity they generate by equipping them with newer, more efficient wind turbines.
The group’s investment will include installing batteries at its facilities, which will be used to store electricity generated by wind farms at times when demand is low for use when it is needed.
The first of these is Barnesmore, which is 22-years-old and generates up to 15 mega watts (MW) of electricity. Iberdrola plans to replace the existing turbines with fewer, larger units capable of producing 60 mega watts.
Similarly, the company intends to reboot wind farms in Rigged Hill, near Limavady in Co Derry, and Corkey in Co Antrim, increasing their capacity from 5 MW to 20 MW for Rigged Hill and 28 MW for Corkey.
Iberdrola ultimately plans further investment in wind farms, battery storage and potentially solar energy here. “We are the world’s largest wind power producer,” Mr McNeill noted.
Scottishpower sold its remaining coal- and gas-fired electricity generating plants to Drax Group earlier this year for £700 million sterling, making it the first UK utility to focus solely on renewable energy.
Iberdrola has businesses in Spain, Ireland, the UK, Portugal, France, Germany and Italy, the US and Latin America. Last year it earned €3 billion in profits and had assets of €113 billion.
“We provide energy for 100 million people worldwide and we look forward to welcoming many new customers with the launch of Iberdrola Ireland,” said Mr McNeill.