London needs to be on top of implications of all-island electricity

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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Little noticed by many people, electricity has been arranged on an all-island basis since 2009.

A cross border energy arrangement sounds like an obvious example of sensible cross border co-operation. But questions arise from the detail, which Jim Allister MLA has flagged up.

The Utility Regulator is investigating the ability of the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI)to act without the involvement of its parent company, Eirgrid.

We report today that SONI’s managing director, Jo Aston, emailed staff about the investigation and added: “It is also important that the organisation speaks with one voice and I would ask that all staff acknowledge this.”

This a crucial probe by the regulator, but the new secretary of state Julian Smith will also need to keep an eye on the wider issue. Ms Aston worked at the Utility Regulator until five months ago and while there is no suggestion that there was anything illegitimate in her move, it will raise eyebrows that such a swift transition is possible.

While the genuine and candid views of SONI staff are important, as a way of assessing how the new arrangements work in practice, London needs to be fully on top of the implications of the Irish Single Electricity Market (ISEM). Northern Ireland must have guaranteed security of energy supply, particularly in a post Brexit age.

What, for example, are the exit mechanisms from the ISEM? All of these issues need to be made transparent.