Belfast Telegraph

Fears the lights could go out across Northern Ireland after 'no deal' Brexit played down

By Margaret Canning

An energy expert has insisted there is no risk of the lights going off in Northern Ireland despite fears that a 'no deal' Brexit could jeopardise security of electricity supply.

Jamie Delargy said he believed fears of blackouts here if the UK leaves the EU without a deal at the end of March were unfounded.

The UK Government will today issue a set of technical notices about how sectors would cope in a hard Brexit scenario, though energy is not included.

The market for electricity in here has operated on an all-island basis, the Single Electricity Market, since 2007. According to The Times, officials from the Irish Government have held talks with UK Business Secretary Greg Clark about maintaining electricity supply in Northern Ireland following Brexit. 

London’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy told the Belfast Telegraph that a meeting had taken place in Belfast on August 6.

It added: “It is of course right that we prepare for any eventuality, including the unlikely event that we do not come to an agreement with the EU.

“As outlined in the EU Exit White Paper, negotiators have already made good progress on a legal provision to underpin the Single Electricity Market in the Withdrawal Agreement and the UK will work with Ireland and the EU in an effort to ensure that the Single Electricity Market is maintained in any future scenario.”

Ann McGregor, chief executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the importance of the all-island energy market should be underlined in the Brexit discussions.

“The risks to both electricity prices and security of supply are significant otherwise.”

Previously-leaked documents suggest running generators on barges to ensure sufficient supply for Northern Ireland.

Mr Delargy, a writer on energy issues at enirgy.info, said our own electricity generation capacity, along with the Moyle Interconnector — a link with Scotland which runs under the sea — made any blackout highly unlikely. 

And he said there could be a possibility of keeping open the power station at Kilroot, outside Carrickfergus, after it was earmarked for closure.  

“Even if we were to tumble out of the EU without a deal, there is very little chance that the lights would go out. Just a few numbers support this argument,” he said. “We are largely self sufficient when it comes to electricity generation, if you factor in the Moyle Interconnector.

“The System Operator here can call on roughly 2000MW of local dispatchable generation. The Moyle adds in a further 450MW. On top of that, there’s about 1,500MW of renewable power capacity supplied mainly by wind farms.”

The Northern Ireland Utility Regulator said: “As we have previously made clear, there is no immediate risk to electricity security of supply in NI.

“We are not aware of, nor have been party to, any talks at government level on this issue.

“However, we continue to engage with key stakeholders.”

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in Dublin said it was committed to maintaining the Single Electricity Market following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Belfast Telegraph

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