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exclusive NI Water’s electricity bill soars to £70m

Costs linked to global price of gas double in year for firm


Gas and energy prices have doubled

Gas and energy prices have doubled

Getty Images

Gas and energy prices have doubled

NI Water, the region’s largest electricity consumer, spent close to £70m on energy in the last 12 months, Sunday Life can reveal.

And the jaw-dropping figure is double the previous year — proving as well as countless families — others are feeling the financial pain.

The government-owned company consumed more than 300m kwh of electricity over the year to March.

Two electricity supply companies, SSE Airtricity and Budget Energy, recently announced increases, while a 37% price hike from Firmus Energy came into effect last week.

Power NI, a subsidiary of Dublin-headquartered Energia, has a contract to supply electricity to NI Water, signed in 2019 with the promise more than 40% would be sourced from renewables.

NI Water, wholly owned by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), supplies 559m litres of drinking water to approximately 850,000 households and businesses, and collects 318m of waste water from approximately 700,000.

“For the 20/21 and 21/22 comparison and rounded up, the figures have approximately doubled or more,” a NI Water spokesperson said.

The total spend on energy for 20/21 was approximately £32.5m, slightly less the previous year and down from £34.3m in the year to the end of March 2019. 

Recent increases in prices, and the expectation they will not drop dramatically from the highs, has added focus to the drive to generate its own energy, including from solar and wind, the company said.

“NI Water is the biggest user of electricity in Northern Ireland and since the price we pay for that electricity is linked to the global price of gas, our costs have soared, ” a spokesperson said.

“Rather than being a source of stability, guaranteeing security of supply, fossil fuel prices have now become highly volatile — and are likely to remain so for quite some time.”

The company said it has “invested in developing a range of renewable self-generation projects, including a major solar farm.”

“There are plans to further invest in an additional 8MW of solar in the near term. In addition, the energy sector and market mechanisms are evolving,” it added.

“New technologies, ranging from electric vehicles to wind turbines and energy storage are being explored, which together with evolving regulation and incentives, are presenting opportunities for NI Water.

“Today approaching 5% of our electricity requirements are self-generated and by 2027 this will be nearer to 10% of our needs. New ways of purchasing energy from renewable generation are also opening up, for example Power Purchase Agreements.”

The company added the energy crisis and the need to address climate change “mean we have to end our dependence on fossil fuels as soon as possible”.

“Creating an indigenous renewable energy system in Northern Ireland is no longer just an aspiration. It has become an economic necessity,” the spokesperson said.

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