A deal to keep open Kilroot Power Station with the rescue of around 150 jobs comes at a £14m cost to Northern Ireland consumers and businesses, it has been claimed.
The power station has been granted a one-year generating contract after negotiations with the NI Utility Regulator and SONI, the operator of the electricity grid here.
But it is understood around 85 jobs will be lost at Ballyumford Power Station in Islandmagee, Co Antrim, as the agreement involves the transfer of a generating contract from Ballylumford to Kilroot near Carrickfergus.
AES, the US energy giant which owns the power stations, last year lost out on a capacity auction run by network owner EirGrid in the Republic, and its counterpart SONI here.
AES said that as a result, 270 jobs were at risk - so the news of a new contract is a reprieve for many of its workers. Stephen Kelly, managing director of Manufacturing NI, said electricity would be more expensive after the Energy Regulator gave the nod to the £14m contract cost being collected from consumers and businesses.
"Our electricity system operator, SONI, and Utility Regulator have folded at the threat from AES to pull all their generating capacity from the Northern Ireland market," he said.
"This has resulted in a very dangerous precedent where £14m of consumers' money is being loaded on to bills which have already risen almost 20% for domestic consumers and up to 34% for business consumers in this past month."
But Robin McCormick, the general manager of the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI), said it had decided that the early closure of Kilroot and part of Ballylumford would have brought "significant impact to the power system which would mean security of supply could not be maintained".
It had therefore decided to maintain the units.
Davy Thompson, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, welcomed the protection of the jobs for another year and said he hoped the one-year contract would roll over for another year.
"At the same time, this is bittersweet news, as it confirms that up to 80 AES positions will be lost as Ballylumford B power station is closed," he said.
But Roger Polen of the Federation of Small Businesses said: "Energy is one of the biggest costs which businesses face, so the news that electricity bills will increase as a result of this announcement will be met with disappointment by small business owners."
AES said its system support services agreement with SONI would give "12 months essential stability". AES did not say how many jobs will be affected though it is believed 85 Ballylumford jobs will go.