NI Committee attacks Govt over electricity report

Several key issues remain to be resolved within the energy sector
Several key issues remain to be resolved within the energy sector

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has strongly criticised the Government over its response to its report into the electricity sector in the province.

The report, published by the committee in May, sets out the looming threat of a deficit in electricity supply by 2021 and the risk of increased energy prices.

Highlighting the importance of improving electricity connections between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, the report also called on the Government to make tough decisions to safeguard the electricity supply, by extending the life of existing power stations or building new low-carbon power plants.

However, the committee chairman Dr Andrew Murrison was scathing about both the timing of the response and its contents.

“It is disappointing that the Government has taken so long to produce a response that says so little,” he said.

“Hiding behind other institutions, in particular the non-existent Northern Ireland Executive, on matters touching on critical national infrastructure is perplexing.

The report presented in May raised a list of 14 separrate recommendations covering, among other things:

:: improved skills levels within the NIO to enable it to “better represent the interests of Northern Ireland’s electricity sector in Whitehall”

:: the need to give consideration to the province when determining landing points for potential future interconnectors with countries such as Iceland

In many cases, the Government’s response was that the issue concerned was a matter for the - non-existent - Executive, prompting one further observation from Dr Murrison who said: “We think government needs to apply some leadership in drawing together devolved administrations and private companies to find a solution to future energy needs.”