Powerful prize from NIE Northern Ireland Electricity recently handed over a new energy efficient fridge-freezer to its 100,000th keypad customer. NIE’s pay-as-you-go way of buying electricity is based on a keypad, which is installed in a convenient position within the home. An NIE electrician installs the keypad – about the size of a person’s hand – free of charge in a convenient location, shows the customer how the scheme works and hands over a help guide. NIE keypad customers receive a 2½% discount on their electricity costs.

To buy electricity credit, customers go to a local agent such as a garage or shop – there are over 80 locations in West Belfast alone. They are given a receipt with a numeric ‘powercode’ for the amount of electricity they buy, in any amount from £2 to £175, in multiples of £1. At home they enter their powercode number into the keypad, and receive credit for the amount of electricity they bought. Customers can also use a debit card to buy electricity from their home by ringing a keypad helpline. Easily-read displays on the keypad include information such as how much electricity was used yesterday, last week and last month, and also show customers how many days’ credit are left.

An added advantage is that if a customer runs out of credit after 4.00 p.m., the electricity supply will automatically stay connected until 8.00 am the next day – or until 8.00 am on Monday morning if credit runs out after 4.00 p.m. on a Friday.