Energia is to add wave power to its renewable energy portfolio, can you tell us more about that initiative?
Energia has been committed to renewables since its inception and was the first Northern Ireland energy supplier to support wind generators through the provision of long-term agreements to purchase their electricity output.
This enabled Energia to supply green energy to schools, hospitals and large users throughout the north. Our commitment to new technologies remains a priority and we are working closely with design engineers on a new wave-power module which they plan to put through sea trials near Bellmullet in County Mayo.
Do you think the Government/ Assembly is doing enough to harness renewable energy in Northern Ireland?
Many will argue that more could be done but the reality is that the Minister for the Environment has expressed his full support for developing renewable energy in Northern Ireland.
The vast majority of our fuel is imported and this heavy reliance on imported oil and gas is exposing us to potential commodity price increases and security of supply risks.
We are at the very end of a long pipeline and need to start producing energy using our own indigenous sources. There is great potential for renewable power in Northern Ireland when compared against Europe and I would expect the Government to capitalise on this when it publishes its Strategic Energy Framework.
There have been criticisms about the Planning Service locally, particularly the amount of time it takes to approve applications including wind farms, has this been your experience?
Planning issues in Northern Ireland have often commanded news headlines, but we have to consider people, businesses and others who live in the vicinity of proposed wind farms. Planning Services are there precisely to address this and other issues.
What growth have you experienced in recent years and what do you attribute that to?
From a start-up position in 1999 to €1bn company in ten years, by anyone’s standards this is a meteoric rise. We now have over 60,000 customers throughout the island of Ireland.
This is largely down to our competitive products and investment in trading technology. This is matched with excellent customer service. Much of this service allows Energia to paradoxically reduce client usage.
You might wonder why we would, as a company, want to reduce our customers’ consumption — we believe a total approach to energy management, both in terms of price and consumption provides real value to customers, which they reciprocate through their loyalty to Energia.
As the market has matured and become more competitive, we understand that added value services are an essential part of what the customer expects.
As part of Viridian, is Energia not effectively competing with NIE which is also part of the group?
Yes we compete with NIE just as any other independent energy firm competes with it. The majority of our business, however, is in the Republic of Ireland, where we supply over 25% of the business electricity market and over 30% of business gas market and generate electricity from two modern and efficient gas fired power stations just north of Dublin.
We also have an extensive wind portfolio both north and south of the border.
What are the short and long-term goals for the company?
In the short-term we plan to further grow Energia’s customer base and are successfully doing that. We also want to consolidate our position as a successful Northern Ireland company, providing competitive energy solutions for our customers.
In the longer term we plan to continue to build the wind farms we have under development.
We are currently constructing a wind farm in Co Donegal which will commission over the summer. Further new building is planned over the coming years, including a number of wind farms in Northern Ireland.
Are you finding more businesses are 'green' minded when it comes to energy?
Yes. Businesses understand the environmental challenges ahead, but they are also responding to their own customers’ demands to deal with businesses that are committed to being more environmentally conscious.
More savvy businesses are putting in energy management plans to reduce their carbon footprint and save money as a result.
Energia’s energy efficiency scheme, which is available throughout Northern Ireland, |is growing each year as businesses realise they can make savings for their business and the |environment.
To their credit, the electricity regulator, NIAUR, has long understood the importance of energy efficiency and has set up a Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme, which is delivering real results to customers with the help of companies such as Energia