Tue 25th Sep 2018
Immediate progress on energy policy critical to economic growth and stability warns NI Chamber
Pictured at the Ulster Carpets Dye House and Energy Centre are (L-R): Eddie Ruddell (Ulster Carpets); Neasa Quigley (Carson McDowell); Nick Coburn (Ulster Carpets); Natasha Sayee (SONI) and Chris Morrow (NI Chamber).
Immediate progress on key energy infrastructure projects, along with an updated Energy Strategy, are critical to economic growth and stability, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) has warned.
Vital projects, including the North South Interconnector and Belfast Power Station must be urgently progressed to ensure long-term security of electricity supply and savings to consumers in Northern Ireland.
The business organisation, which represents over 1,200 members from across Northern Ireland, was speaking following the latest NI Chamber & SONI Energy Forum event, hosted by manufacturer Ulster Carpets at its Portadown site earlier today (25 September 2018).
Over 60 members of the business community joined the event to discuss future energy policy, with keynote speakers Neasa Quigley, Partner at Carson McDowell, and Joe Reynolds from the Energy Strategy Division at the Department for the Economy.
Chris Morrow, Head of Policy at NI Chamber, commented:
“Immediate progress around key energy projects is essential to create greater certainty for business and employers and help firms plan for growth and expansion – particularly large energy users. A secure, long-term energy supply is a fundamental requirement if we are to attract investment and create employment opportunities over the coming years.
“We also need to see an updated and detailed Energy Strategy. Given the rate of change and evolving technologies, as well as the need to shift to a low-carbon economy, it’s critical that Northern Ireland has an agreed pathway as to how we’re going to not only meet our future energy challenges, but also take full advantage of the many opportunities in this area.
“Whilst we would urge Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley MP to allow senior civil servants to sign off on planning applications for strategically important projects including the Interconnector and Belfast Power Station as a matter of priority, our long term energy policy needs to be set by a devolved government. Local businesses need to play a central role in shaping this energy policy, meaning we need to see the Stormont Executive back up and running without any further delay.”
Speaking at the event, Neasa Quigley, Partner at Carson McDowell, said:
“Northern Ireland urgently needs an agreed Energy Strategy that supports long-term investment decisions. Certainty on energy policy is a fundamental issue for businesses in all sectors, but confidence is currently being undermined by the absence of an energy policy beyond 2020, coupled with the lack of a functioning Executive and clarity on Brexit’s implications for the energy market.
“There have been many positive outcomes delivered from the previous Strategic Energy Framework published in 2010. The energy agenda has moved on and we need a new strategy dealing with matters like better energy efficiency, smart energy networks and electrical vehicles that is fully endorsed by the Northern Ireland Executive. The Energy Forum is a timely opportunity for business to debate and scope out what form that strategy should take.”
Also speaking at the event was Eddie Ruddell, Quality and Environmental Systems Manager at Ulster Carpets, who shared the company’s own Energy Strategy with delegates, before providing a tour of the firms new Dye House and Energy Centre.
The new facilities costing £10m, are part of a £35m investment by the third-generation family firm which is a major supplier of luxurious Axminster carpets, with exports now accounting for 70% of company sales.
Commenting on the event, Natasha Sayee, Senior Lead Public Affairs Specialist at SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland), said:
“At SONI we work hard to make sure that businesses across Northern Ireland have the electricity supply they need every day. This is vital to ensure economic growth, and to attract investment throughout the region.
“As technology evolves, we are responding; for example, our team now manages world-leading levels of wind energy on the system, which ultimately benefits consumers.
“We are working towards launching the Integrated Single Electricity Market (ISEM) on 1st October and are continuing to focus on the delivery of the proposed North South Interconnector, both of which will bring downward pressure on prices.
“NI Chamber’s Energy Forum gives us a solid platform to discuss these initiatives with local businesses, and get involved in a conversation about Northern Ireland’s energy needs in the years to come.”