Hundreds of jobs at risk as Northern Ireland power stations face shutdown this year
Up to 400 jobs could be lost as it's been revealed one of Northern Ireland's main power plants and part of a second are set to close this year.
Kilroot, owned and run by AES, will shut later this year, after it was not selected by the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) for electricity generation here.
And the Ballylumford station will also shut down one of its main generation units on December 31.
AES UK & Ireland president Ian Luney said he was disappointed with the decision, and as a result, both stations cannot continue to "cover their fixed costs".
Kilroot, based outside Carrickfergus, could shut when the new all-island Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) begins on May 23.
I-SEM is replacing the current Single Electricity Market and is is designed to deliver increased levels of competition as well as encouraging greater levels of security of supply. But now, 270 staff and a further 120 full-time contractors are at risk of losing their jobs.
"We're working to address the uncertainty this decision has brought to their employment as we begin a full statutory consultation process," Mr Luney said.
"In parallel, we are working to minimise the substantial impact for our suppliers, offtakers and other key stakeholders."
And Mr Luney warned that closure of the stations "could contribute to a significant risk to the security and stability of supply in Northern Ireland".
"With the likely absence of any significant and reliable new generation in the next four years and a North-South interconnector that isn't expected to come online until 2021, we are concerned that the removal of capacity at Kilroot and Ballylumford could contribute to a significant risk to the security and stability of supply in Northern Ireland.
"In addition to capacity, Kilroot Power Station has been providing reliable and critical energy and system services for Northern Ireland.
"Over the last three years Kilroot has been integral to the security of supply in Northern Ireland.
"The Kilroot units that are set to close met 22% of local electricity demand, so we are surprised by SONI's decision which indicates that the generation capacity would not be needed for security of supply this coming winter.
"As a result of the units not being retained in the auction, difficult decisions will need to be taken that impact the 270 AES employees and 120 full-time contractors that support our operations.
"We remain open to further engagement to continue to contribute to secure energy certainty for Northern Ireland in the near to medium term."
It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed this week that it was expected Kilroot would lose out on contracts.
In a statement, EirGrid Group, which operates the grid across the island of Ireland, said the first Capacity Market auction for the Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) was held on December 15 and the results confirmed at a meeting of the regulatory authorities yesterday.
Rodney Doyle, Director of Market Operations at EirGrid Group, said the auction is a major milestone as the industry transitions to the new I-SEM arrangements. He added: "The auction successfully ran in accordance with the approved Capacity Market code."
There were 100 bidders in the auction, of which 93 were successful.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a £200m electricity project linking Northern Ireland and the Republic was given the green light.
The North-South interconnector, which will go through Tyrone, Armagh, Cavan, Monaghan and Meath, will meet the energy needs of households and businesses here, it has been claimed.
The number of staff and full-time contractors who face possible job losses in the closures