The extension of natural gas services to 13 towns and villages in east Down offers great promise to domestic and commercial consumers Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has claimed.
Welcoming the Utility Regulator’s decision to extend Phoenix Natural Gas’ gas conveyance licence to 13 towns and villages including Hillsborough, Ballynahinch, Downpatrick, Saintfield, Ballygowan, Castlewellan, Dromore and Newcastle, Mr Bell said: “The project will commence in 2016 and is expected to make natural gas available to around 25,000 domestic properties and 2,000 small industrial and commercial businesses in the area.
“As natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, extending the gas network should produce significant carbon savings.
“I look forward to the start of construction work on the East Down extension in 2016 with the first customers to be connected later that year.”
SDLP MLA for the area Margaret Ritchie said: “Today’s news will mean the natural gas network will be available in the northern end of the constituency which will complement the gas network from Newry to Warrenpoint.
“Once it is developed, homes and businesses will be able to access a fuel and energy choice that was not previously available.
“Above all, the extension of the natural gas pipeline is an important further catalyst for economic and social development in this area,” she added.
“It will be an incentive and a bulwark to existing businesses; to future economic growth and productivity; and to job and investment opportunities looking to locate and invest in this area.”
It could also benefit existing businesses and public sector sites, such as schools, health and other public service sites she said.
Head of energy policy at the Consumer Council, Richard Williams also welcomed the move which he said would mean “more choice for around 25,000 consumers and around 2,000 small businesses.