Belfast Telegraph

London's response to report on looming Northern Ireland energy crisis rapped

By Adrian Rutherford

The Government has been criticised over its response to a report warning that the lights could go out during Northern Ireland's centenary celebrations.

A report earlier this year by an influential group of MPs reported that we will need more energy than can be supplied in 2021.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee warned that power bills would soar unless work begins now on a cross-border interconnector.

However, the Government's response has been described as too late and lacking in detail.

It shifts the responsibility on to the Executive, which collapsed in January, saying it should establish a permanent advisory body for electricity policy.

The response adds: "We recognise the importance of maintaining affordable, secure, and sustainable supplies of electricity for businesses and domestic consumers in Northern Ireland.

"We further recognise the particular challenges presented by the size of the market and support the continuation of a single electricity market covering Northern Ireland and Ireland."

Dr Andrew Murrison, the chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, said the response was inadequate.

He added: "It is disappointing that the Government has taken so long to produce a response with so little detail.

"They have chosen to hide behind other institutions, in particular the non-existent Northern Ireland Executive, and expect them to provide the answers.

"We hope that they reconsider their position and ensure there is a coherent, co-ordinated response to tackle the looming energy deficit facing Northern Ireland.

"They must show that they understand the issue and are leading devolved administrations and private companies in finding a solution."

The report, published in May, sets out the looming threat of a deficit in electricity supply by 2021 and the risk of increased energy prices.

It highlighted the importance of improving electricity connection between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

It also called on the Government to make tough decisions to safeguard the electricity supply, by extending the life of existing power stations or building new low-carbon power plants.

The then Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan urged people to have candles ready for Northern Ireland's 100th anniversary - but for blackouts rather than a birthday cake, warning at the time: "If action is not taken soon we could find ourselves drifting towards an energy crisis."

Belfast Telegraph

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