IT problems set to cause delays in new Irish electricity roll-out
Changes to the electricity market in Ireland - which led to plans for the shutdown of Kilroot power station in Co Antrim with the loss of 270 jobs - have been delayed by five months, it has emerged.
The body charged with introducing the Integrated Single Electricity Market (ISEM) on the island has announced it will be delayed until October because of IT problems, instead of being introduced in May.
The ISEM is designed to encourage competition and bring down prices for consumers.
An auction to supply the ISEM at the end of last year saw Kilroot near Carrickfergus losing out, leading to its owner, American company AES, announcing that it would shut down in May.
Economist John Simpson said the delay left "a cloud" over the future of Kilroot.
"The introduction of a new all-island contracting system for wholesale electricity supplies was always going to be a demanding test of design, legal requirements, new IT systems and co-operation between the generators and the regulator," he said.
"The delay is attributed to the testing and fixing of IT systems. However, it still leaves a serious cloud hanging over the changed implications for generators, especially Kilroot. As yet there has been no clarification of whether the closure of the main generators at Kilroot will still happen shortly after May 23."
However, AES said it would not comment.
The change was announced by the Single Electricity Market Committee (SEMC), made up of watchdogs the Utility Regulator (Northern Ireland), the Commission for Regulation of Utilities and two independent members.
The System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI) operates the electricity system in Northern Ireland, and is part of EirGrid, which fulfils the function in the Republic. SONI general manager Robin McCormick said: "The decision to postpone the launch date of the new market is prudent as it will facilitate the completion of final testing of the core ISEM software. It will also allow market participants to ensure that their IT systems are ready.
"In March, the ISEM programme office reported to the SEM Committee that there continues to be a number of key IT defects that need to be resolved by third party vendors in the run-up to market go-live.
"SONI, along with EirGrid and the regulatory authorities are fully committed to meeting the new go-live date and acknowledge the significant efforts of all industry participants, vendors and partner organisations in supporting this objective."