Brexit electricity blackout fears prompt calls to rethink Kilroot closure

Kilroot power station on the northern shore of Belfast Lough supplies more than a third of the Province's electricity
Kilroot power station on the northern shore of Belfast Lough supplies more than a third of the Province's electricity

Warnings of electricity blackouts in Northern Ireland in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit should force a rethink of plans to close one of the Province’s main electricity stations, it has been claimed.

Leaked government documents have suggested there is a possibility of price increases and shortages of supply if there is no withdrawal deal.

In light of this, DUP MP Sammy Wilson and Unite the Union have called for the reversal of plans to shut Kilroot power station, after its owner AES failed to land a contract to supply the new integrated single electricity market.

The axing of Kilroot, which accounts for over a third of NI’s electricity generating capacity, raises major questions about the security of supply and making the Province more dependent on the Republic for its electricity.

Documents leaked to the BBC show that government officials have been preparing a report on how a ‘no-deal’ scenario could impact on the all-island single electricity market (SEM).

UK officials suggest that a no-deal Brexit could see the SEM, at best, continue but be at risk, the BBC reported.

They even raise an alternative possibility that it could split “leaving an insecure, isolated NI market”.

And that could in turn see NI bills rise by up to 34%, lead to blackouts and prompt government intervention.

Mr Wilson said his party had told the government that any doubts about the security of the electricity market in NI could be dealt with if Kilroot remained operational.

“We had a conversation with the secretary of state two weeks ago and made it clear she may have to intervene to ensure the Utility Regulator gives a derogation to Kilroot so that it can continue producing electricity,” he told the News Letter.

Mr Wilson also spoke of his concerns over the all-island energy market, claiming that the Irish government had adopted a “deliberate policy” of making NI more dependent upon Irish producers.

He added: “Dublin has been seen to be an aggressive and underhanded competitor when it comes to the so called all-Ireland market and I have no doubt they are doing the same when it comes to electricity.”

Davy Thompson, Unite regional coordinating officer, urged the company which operates the electricity grid in the Province, the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI), to immediately review its decision to deny Kilroot contracts to supply power.

He added that, as well as putting hundreds of jobs at risk, SONI’s decision also threatens to make NI dependent on electricity supplied by the Republic “at the very time when the future security of such arrangements are threatened by the Brexit process”.