Jobs boost as power station project could generate over 700 new posts
Plan is latest big project to get green light from civil servants
Up to 700 jobs could be created after a massive £300m gas-fired Belfast power plant was given the green light, it has emerged.
Belfast Power wants to built the huge plant at Belfast Harbour, which could produce up to half of Northern Ireland's electricity at peak times.
Now, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has issued a notice of opinion to approve the major development. The firm behind the scheme says 700 jobs could be supported during the build, with 35 full-time roles once it's operational.
Work is expected to start in autumn, with the plant up and running by 2022.
It's the second major scheme to be given the go-ahead by Stormont, despite no ministers being in place. Just last week, Translink was given approval for its ambitious £208m Belfast Transport Hub.
The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has also given approval to a new £15m cruise ship terminal at Belfast Harbour, aimed at boosting the city's connectivity with ships and attractiveness as a destination.
Ciaran Devine, director of Belfast Power Limited said the power station project approval comes at a "critical time for Northern Ireland's electricity industry, and the power station will play a central role in ensuring we have enough electricity to meet demand over the coming years".
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"The project also represents a significant shift towards low-carbon electricity generation in Northern Ireland," he said.
"This is good news as we continue towards decarbonisation and it will ensure competitive costs, benefiting customers."
Belfast Power is working alongside Siemens Energy to design and operate the plant.
In a previous interview with the Belfast Telegraph, co-founder Ciaran Devine said it could power up to 50% of Northern Ireland's homes and businesses at peak time.
Ciaran and his brother Stephen have already built an £83m biomass-fuelled power station in Londonderry, under their firm Evermore.
Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed both approvals and said the "permanent secretary for the Department for Infrastructure must be commended again for making these two further decisions".
"At over £300m, the Belfast Power Station project is of significant strategic importance, not only for Northern Ireland's electricity infrastructure, but also for the economy in terms of the amount of jobs that will be created during its construction and again while operational," she said.
Mr Devine says that "at a time of considerable uncertainty, we're proud to be bringing this level of investment to Belfast, which will result in the creation of over 700 full-time jobs when construction begins and over 35 full-time roles when the plant is operational".
He added: "DfI has been thoroughly professional in its approach to the application since it was submitted in April 2017."
The company will now participate in a capacity auction to be conducted by the Utility Regulator, he said.