Belfast Telegraph

Energy costs threat to employment, say firms

BY CLARE WEIR

Jobs could be lost in Northern Ireland because of high energy costs, manufacturing industry bosses have warned.

Manufacturing NI, which represents almost 500 businesses in the manufacturing sector across Northern Ireland, addressed the Enterprise Committee yesterday and called for the establishment of a 'Forum of expertise' to help address a crisis which threatens to stifle the economy.

Representatives of our biggest manufacturing firms including shipbuilder Harland and Wolff, plane-maker Bombardier, tyre firm Michelin and Irwin's Bakery claimed that high energy costs are causing "a crisis" in the Northern Ireland economy.

Niall Irwin, of Portadown-based Irwin's Bakery, told the enterprise committee energy costs were "close" to forcing it to move part of its production to Britain, with the potential loss of 100 jobs.

Energy prices for domestic users, along with 70% of smaller businesses, are in line with European averages.

Bryan Gray of Manufacturing Northern Ireland said that the group had repeatedly raised the issue with government and the Utility Regulator and would continue to do so forcibly in the hope that a group with sufficient expertise in the market could be brought together to find a way forward.

"High energy costs are stifling recovery from the recession and damaging growth, taking away a key tool in the attraction of FDIs," he said. "The Regulator's research quantifies this definitively – power for the manufacturing here costs 20% more than the South or in GB.

"Northern Ireland's manufacturers are currently paying the second highest costs in Europe behind Italy and this just can't be allowed to go on.

"Electricity costs for manufacturers in Northern Ireland are almost double those of our competitors in countries such as France and Sweden and significantly higher than both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland."

Wilton Crawford, managing director of Michelin, said there was a clear connection between high energy costs and job retention and creation. He added the plant spends £10m a year on gas and electricity costs.

Cecil McBurney from Bombardier said energy costs are critical to the company's overall competitiveness in an ever-challenging global market and affect their ability to retain existing work and win new contracts.

500

manufacturers have joined up to call for action on energy costs

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