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Four years to halt electricity supply deficit in Northern Ireland

1 May 2017

Northern Ireland could face further rises in energy bills if action is not taken to prevent a deficit in electricity supply, finds a report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. Without urgent investment in Northern Ireland's energy infrastructure, the industry is not confident it will be able to keep the lights on after 2021.

Report findings

As a first step, it is crucial that the North/South Interconnector clears the final planning stages and construction begins as soon as possible to ensure it is operational ahead of 2021. It has near unanimous support from across the electricity sector in Northern Ireland, and will bring greater security of supply, increased capacity for renewable energy, and substantially lower costs for consumers.

The current political uncertainty has been especially damaging to the electricity sector. Northern Ireland's Strategic Energy Framework is fast becoming out-of-date and industry groups are calling for a new long-term strategy to guide investment in the electricity network. Once it is re-established, the Executive's new Programme for Government needs to quickly elaborate a clear ambition for a secure, sustainable and cost-efficient electricity system. An advisory body should also be established involving all key stakeholders to inform the Executive's work.

The UK's withdrawal from the EU will also present challenges for Northern Ireland's electricity market, which is highly integrated with that of the Republic of Ireland through the Single Electricity Market (SEM) and operates on the basis of mutual membership of the Internal Energy Market and compliance with its regulations. The UK Government will need to ensure the interests of electricity consumers in Northern Ireland are protected in the upcoming negotiations with the EU.

Chair's comment

On publishing the report, Laurence Robertson MP, Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, said:

"Establishing a secure electricity supply must be a priority for Stormont and Westminster. Our largest employers already face some of the highest energy prices in Europe, causing significant harm to the competitiveness of businesses based here.

While Brexit offers new opportunities for Northern Ireland, a key challenge for the Government will be to ensure the continuing operation of a single electricity market on the island of Ireland, which has brought substantial benefits to both countries in recent years. The Government must defend the interests of Northern Ireland's electricity consumers in the upcoming negotiations with the EU.

The UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive must work together with energy producers and consumers to set out a long-term strategy for electricity production and supply. If we are to encourage investment in electricity infrastructure, this will only come with long-term assurance on policy and funding."

Further information

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