Immediate progress on key energy infrastructure projects, along with an updated Energy Strategy, are critical to economic growth and stability, the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry has claimed.
It said vital projects such as the North South Interconnector and Belfast power station should be urgently progressed to ensure long-term security of electricity supply and savings to consumers.
The latest call for action from the business community follows the latest Chamber and SONI Energy Forum event, hosted by manufacturer Ulster Carpets at Portadown on Tuesday.
More than 60 members ned 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.
“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,” said head of policy Chris Morrow.
“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.”
While urging Secretary of State Karen Bradley to allow senior civil servants to sign off on planning applications for such strategically important projects, he said there was only one preferred option.
“As a matter of priority, our long term energy policy needs to be set by a devolved government,” Mr Morrow said.
“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.”