Northern Ireland could face further rises in energy bills because it faces a deficit in electricity production by 2021, according to a report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. It is crucial that the North/South Interconnector between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland clears the final planning stages and construction begins as soon as possible to ensure it is operational ahead of 2021.
The report says the UK government must prioritise repair of the Moyle interconnector, which links Northern Ireland and Scotland and is currently working at half its 500MW capacity for technical reasons. The report calls on the UK government to direct the National Grid, Scottish Power and Ofgem to upgrade the link in advance of other work on UK interconnectors. However the Moyle link is owned by Mutual Energy, a not for profit company that owns and runs it along with Northern Ireland’s gas links. In a February update the company said it had been unable to pinpoint the reason for the cable fault, and the reason may not be known until the cable is raised for repair.
The report says that once it resumes, the Northern Ireland Executive must act quickly to encourages investment. The Strategic Energy Framework should be updated and an advisory body should be established involving all key stakeholders.
On publishing the report, Laurence Robertson MP, chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee commented: “Difficult decisions about where future electricity supply will come from will need to be taken quickly if the current situation is not to get worse. The North/South Interconnector must pass its final procedural hurdles quickly to enable construction to begin and be completed by 2021. We also need to know how current electricity production in Northern Ireland will be maintained or improved. Will there be investment to prolong the lifespan of Kilroot and Ballyrumford B, or will new cleaner technologies be encouraged?
“The UK Government and Northern Ireland Assembly must work together with energy producers and consumers to set out the long term strategy for electricity production and supply. If we are to encourage investment in electricity infrastructure, this will only come with long term guarantees on policy and funding.”