Energy expert – Brexit ‘red flags’ for NI supply

Steve Holliday
Steve Holliday

The issue of energy generation and supply in the context of Brexit is one significant importance to Northern Ireland an expert has claimed.

Steve Holliday, who spent 10 years as chief executive at National Grid and is now vice president of the Energy Institute, will address industry leaders in Belfast on Thursday, setting out energy professionals’ ‘red flags’ about Brexit.

“It’s vital that the energy industry seeks to inform and influence the events unfolding before us, and red flags have been raised by energy professionals around Brexit,” ” he said in advance of the event.

“I have no doubt this uncertainty is amplified here in Northern Ireland in relation to the land border with the Republic.

“The future of energy is smart. But Brexit is not smart if it means reducing the interaction between markets and the ability to move skills to where they’re needed, limiting the benefits to the consumer in terms of affordability and reliability, and the planet in terms of emissions.”

Although Prime Minister Theresa May sought to allay fears in her speech last week, speaking of “broad energy cooperation with the EU” and “protecting the single electricity market across Ireland and Northern Ireland,” he said the details of that were unclear.

“During my decade leading National Grid I was acutely aware of the interconnected nature of the UK’s energy system.

“The efficiencies available through trading energy with our European neighbours offer huge benefits to consumers, resilience to our economy and the environment.”

While the UK may be leaving the EU in political terms, he said the pipes and wires would continue to connect the two entities.

“But there are concerns about new tariffs being levied that could create barriers for energy-related foreign direct investment and lead to increased cost and delays in the construction of energy infrastructure,” he said.

“For Northern Ireland, Brexit adds further complexity to the already complex process of establishing the Integrated Single Energy Market.”

It could also encourage Ireland to pursue the so-called Celtic Interconnector with France, and proposals for LNG importation into Ireland, bypassing the UK altogether, he added.

“If projects like the proposed new North South interconnector are to go ahead unhindered, existing EU energy laws that govern how our markets work need to be transferred seamlessly into UK law, alongside a comprehensive energy and climate chapter in the future trade agreement with the EU.”