Northern Ireland at real risk of ‘lights out’ says Committee

Northern Ireland (NI) may be at risk of an electricity shortage and could potentially experience a 'lights out' scenario by 2015 if supply is not secured, according to a Committee review.

The NI Assembly Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment carried out a review which focused on the possibility of demands not being met and put forward a motion in the Assembly into the security of electricity supply.

Speaking after the motion, Chairperson of the Committee, Patsy McGlone MLA said: “The Committee’s review found a number of things. We found that from the end of 2015 we may have a lower surplus margin, which is the amount of slack in the system”.

The review suggested that if any large generating plant were to have a prolonged fault after 2015, there would not be enough electricity generated to cope with demand.

It also found that many large businesses have standby generation capacity which could be fed into the grid during times of peak demand. According to McGlone, this is currently not being utilised.

Based on its findings, the Committee is making a number of recommendations to the Utility Regulator, the electricity industry and Executive Ministers.

Recommendations include exploring the use of existing cross-border standby connections and getting large businesses involved in assisting during times of peak demand.

Additionally, McGlone said an urgent decision on the proposed North-South Interconnector was essential.

“The fact of the matter is electricity is not getting any cheaper; therefore, if we are to pay the current prices, we have every right to insist on a reliable, efficient electricity service. I urge the appropriate authorities to heed the Committee’s proposals and I look forward to following the progress on this issue in the future,” added McGlone.

Leigh Stringer

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