Belfast Telegraph

Manufacturing NI seeks more transparency on electricity costs

The group representing Northern Ireland's manufacturing firms has called for the Executive to act on plans to make the cost of generating and transmitting electricity more transparent.

Manufacturing NI said its members are facing the second highest electricity prices in Europe and as a result are losing competitiveness, investment and jobs for the local economy.

The organisation was responding to a report by the Assembly Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment presented at Stormont yesterday.

It called for a review to consider how generation costs can be made more transparent by the Single Electricity Market Operator (SEMO) and also for work to improve the transparency of network charges.

A briefing paper by the committee said there is very little transparency in the costs and rewards to electricity generators at present. In terms of network costs, it said there is a "lack of information" in how NIE runs and plans its business.

"We sense from the report a considerable frustration about a lack of transparency by both generators and the distribution company, NIE, on cost, value and profits," Stephen Kelly from Manufacturing NI said. "This reflects our own experiences."

At the heart of the business body's argument is the cost of electricity to so-called Large Industrial and Commercial (L&C) consumers here.

That's also a concern for the DETI committee.

"The committee is concerned that high electricity prices for large I&C users could result in some not being able to expand their businesses to create jobs; some coming off the grid and generating their own electricity, resulting in network charges being increased for all other users who must pick up the tab; or even, some large users leaving Northern Ireland with a resulting direct and indirect loss of jobs and employment with a consequential economic detriment," the committee said.

And while sympathetic with L&C customers, it's also wary of further disadvantaging domestic consumers by re-apportioning network charges.

"The first rule of business is 'can the customer afford it'. Unfortunately for many business and domestic consumers, we cannot afford the price electricity is being supplied at, We would urge the minister, department, regulator, Single Electricity Market committee and energy companies themselves to take action based on this important report," the committee added.

Belfast Telegraph