Power cuts could manufacture big paydays for Northern Ireland firms
Northern Ireland's manufacturing sector is being thrown a much-needed lifeline, as a major firm arrives which could help companies claw back tens of thousands of pounds in energy costs.
Energy firm KiWi Power has applied for a licence to operate here, and will join at least two Northern Ireland firms which will soon offer so-called 'demand reduction' services.
The process could see firms earning tens of thousands of pounds each year by allowing themselves to be taken off the electricity grid at peak times.
London-headquartered KiWi monitors the energy used by its customers, and can cut power use at short notice. It already operates across the UK and the Republic, as well as elsewhere in Europe.
It could mean turning off lights or air conditioning during peak times of energy demand, or moving power to a generator for anything up to two hours.
KiWi customers include major international firms such as Marriott hotels and industrial companies.
"In simple terms, demand response was set up by the network owners. They have to produce secure and sustainable networks," said Des Connolly, senior business development manager for KiWi Power Ireland. "At times of peak demand, typically during winter and sporting events, they have demand programmes where large consumers can reduce their load and take stress off the grid."
Businesses can get called at short notice several times a year.
In return, they can expect to receive around £40,000 a year for each megawatt of energy.
Two Northern Ireland firms have already been awarded licences in the last few months.
Former grid control engineer Michael Jackson formed Energy Trading Ireland and now has a licence to begin working here.
The company already counts a number of major Northern Ireland manufacturers as its clients.
"We are focusing on heavy industry, rather than the smaller businesses," said Mr Jackson.
Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI said: "We have a couple of firms with licences and I would welcome this new company to the market."
Sam Thompson, managing director of Powerhouse Generation Ltd was the first firm to be licenced in Northern Ireland, and hopes to enter the market in the next few weeks.
Earlier this year aerospace giant Bombardier - one of Northern Ireland's largest employers - unveiled Ireland's largest solar panel rooftop in a £3.5m investment.