Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Pensioner without electricity faces £67,000 bill for power

A pensioner who lives without electricity in his home has spoken of how he is facing up to another freezing winter after being told he will have to pay almost £70,000 to be connected to the grid.

John McCarter (74) has lived without power in his home on the Seacoast Road — the main road between Benone and Downhill in Co Londonderry — for over a quarter of a century and has been trying to get electricity at the property for the past three years.

With his meagre pension and benefits, Mr McCarter has only £100 a week to live on and says he cannot afford the installation cost to provide power for his home. As a result he faces trying to get through yet another winter when temperatures in his home, on one of the most exposed parts of the coast of Northern Ireland, rarely rise above two degrees.

When the pensioner applied to be connected to the electricity grid he was presented with a staggering cost of £67,000.

“I don’t live in the back of beyond. I live on the A2 so I don’t understand why there is no power here in the first place. I understand and am willing to pay the cost of having my house connected to the line but I cannot afford the cost of running a line to my house,” he said.

“I call this the forgotten mile. It’s a small distance between Coleraine and Limavady where there is no electricity. For some reason there is no electricity line along here and NIE expect me to pay the cost of putting a line in.

“I’ve never had electricity and now I’m getting older I decided it’s time that I got it. I have got by on gas lamps and open fires so far but it’s not easy and it’s expensive to pay for coal for the fire.

“In the winter when the fire has burnt out in the morning, you would be lucky if the temperature in the house goes above two degrees. You need electricity to operate central heating so the house gets very cold as it isn’t brick. It’s nearly as old as me.

“When I was younger I probably wouldn’t have felt the cold as badly but now I’m nearly 75, I thought it would be nice to have a bit of comfort. It’s more than that though, it’s a basic human right.

“When you hear about the power going off in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are efforts to get it back on and if the power goes off in the likes of Limavady, they work round the clock to get it back. I don’t want to move somewhere else. I made this my home when I moved in on May 1, 1983 and it is always going to be my home.

“I don’t live in the back of beyond. There are houses up on the Bishop’s Road and they all have electricity so I don’t understand why I don’t.

“It’s a ridiculous amount of money to expect anyone to pay but I have to get by on about £100 a week, that is all I have to live on.

“Like I said, I would pay to be connected but I don’t see why I should have to pay for something that is regarded as infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman from NIE said the company’s current charging policy is based upon a statement of charges which is reviewed and agreed annually by the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation.

“This ensures the most equitable arrangement for all our customers, both domestic and business,” she said.

“In this instance Mr McCarter lives near an Area of Special Scientific Interest and NIE is restricted in the type of network which can be built. We would have to lay an underground cable to provide a connection and these are the costs associated with this length of undergrounding.”

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