Shock electricity decision puts energy policy in the spotlight

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The fact of being an island means that there will always be parts of the Irish economy that are organised to a significant, even primary, degree on an all-Ireland basis.

Agriculture and electricity are among the markets that are inextricably tied to geography.

In recent weeks, when there was controversy about cross-border alignment before the Brexit talks moved to the next stage, electricity was cited as a field in which alignment was not controversial.

Now the new all-Ireland electricity market is being linked to the shock news that most of Kilroot power station is set to close and parts of Ballylumford too.

This is both alarming tidings for the hundreds of employees at the two Co Antrim sites and unsettling news for Northern Ireland as a whole.

Not only are there now questions about the security of Northern Ireland’s electricity supply, as our report in today’s edition explains, but there are specific questions about the political correctness that has dictated policy on both sides of the border.

For example, while the increased amount of electricity generated by renewables is on the whole necessary and welcome, it is to some extent achieved by bribing landowners to erect wind turbines, which is not.

Some people have found that they have a huge turbine close to their home.

There has also been an almost complete reluctance, in Dublin and Belfast, even to contemplate nuclear power. This is a major energy component in Great Britain and provides most of the energy in France, and ruling it out on this side of the Irish Sea greatly reduces the available options.

These are medium and long term policy matters, but urgent nonetheless.

In the meantime, there will be intense and appropriate scrutiny of the System Operator Northern Ireland decision, which has run the first auction of the new all-island market that has led to this surprise development.