Beggs right to call for rethink on Kilroot and energy policy

Few areas of public policy are more complex than energy.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 7th May 2018, 3:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 5:38 pm
Morning View
Morning View

The difficulty in finding expertise in the field has been shown up in the RHI inquiry.

But few nations have easily cracked their energy policy, and those that have done have often had the good fortune to be territories with abundant natural resources.

It will have come as a surprise to many people earlier this year when it emerged that Kilroot power station, near Carrickfergus, was going to close, perhaps as early as this month.

The station towers over Belfast Lough, and is visible to tens of thousands of inhabitants on both sides of that inlet. It was hardly a pleasant structure to look at but its scale was a suggestion of its significance. Many people were aware that it was coming to the end of its lifespan, but were shocked to discover that hundreds of jobs would be axed their quite so soon.

Now, one of the MLAs whose constituency covers Kilroot has made an intriguing suggestion. Roy Beggs has called for its retention now that cracks have emerged in the reactor at Hunterston B plant in Ayrshire. Mr Beggs also wants a re-think of the cross-border Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) process which will result in the closure of Kilroot.

Hunsterston might have to cut output by 40% over the next year. The very fact that Hunsterston is nuclear, and that Ireland has no nuclear power at all, is in itself telling. There is a high mindedness about nuclear on this island that is not matched by a similarly high minded prudence in energy use.

If we are going to be as thirsty in our energy usage as other western nations, can we so readily spurn a major source of power that is in a core respect clean?

There has been great progress in renewables but not even close to enough to meet our current needs.

There are major long term matters of supply that are yet to be fully resolved. As Mr Beggs says, Hunterston makes that even more the case. And as he also says, once Kilroot closes, re-opening it, if needed, might not be feasible.