The build-out of the proposed North South Interconnector is a priority for Northern Ireland businesses, according to representatives at a recent Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) Energy Forum in Cookstown.
The Energy Forum series, delivered in partnership with SONI, brings local businesses and energy industry specialists together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the energy market in Northern Ireland and its impact on the local economy.
The North South Interconnector, a proposed new overhead transmission line that will further connect the electricity grids in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, received planning permission from the Department for Infrastructure in January 2018.
When delivered, the Interconnector will facilitate economic growth by generating significant energy savings for businesses and ensuring Northern Ireland has enough electricity to meet demand in the coming years.
At the Energy Forum, NI Chamber members and guests highlighted the Interconnector’s importance as a key piece of infrastructure that should be progressed in 2018.
Speaking at the event, Chris Morrow, Head of Policy at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “NI Chamber has highlighted the North South Interconnector as a strategically important infrastructure project for a number of years.
“It will provide real benefits for our members, who are already operating in challenging circumstances, helping to create conditions that will allow them to grow their businesses locally and also to compete on a global scale.
“Now that planning permission for the Interconnector is in place, we would encourage all stakeholders to work together to ensure it is built-out and operational without any further delay.”
Alan Campbell, Manager of Grid Development and Interconnection at SONI, said: “A key aspect of our role at SONI is delivering projects that facilitate economic growth and help to create the right conditions for investment in Northern Ireland; and the North South Interconnector is at the heart of this.
“Competitive energy prices and a reliable, high quality electricity supply are essential not only for existing employers but also for anyone looking at Northern Ireland as a place to invest.
“By delivering the Interconnector we will increase competition in the energy market and make sure electricity is delivered to customers as cost efficiently as possible – something that we know is very important to NI Chamber members.
“With planning permission now in place in Northern Ireland and in ROI, our focus is on progressing the project so its benefits can be realised by everyone as soon as possible.”
Guests were also welcomed to the event by Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster Francie Molloy who said: ‘We welcome planning approval, Mid Ulster needs the Interconnector as soon as possible. It is vital for the steady and sustainable supply of energy, which is in particularly high demand in the Cookstown area from the many firms within the engineering sector.
“If we are to truly develop the economy West of the Bann, we need the Interconnector to give us a guaranteed energy supply.”
Guest speakers at the event included David Butler, Head of Engineering at SGN Natural Gas and Richard Murphy, Energy Partner at law firm Pinsent Masons.
Commenting on the year ahead, Pinsent Masons Partner Richard Murphy said: “Energy is an area where investment operates on a long lead time, and businesses need clarity on policy makers’ direction of travel.
“Flagship strategies such as Strategic Energy Framework require considerable consultation and debate between government, energy stakeholders, business and consumer representatives. In the absence of restoration of the NI Executive it is difficult to see from where the leadership will come to set out the direction for the sector beyond 2020.”
The Forum also heard from Charlene Jones, Group Environmental & Quality Manager at Henry Brothers and Michael Campbell, HSE Manager at Genesis Crafty, who detailed how their respective companies have introduced innovative measures to reduce energy usage and therefore costs.
1:Chris Morrow (NI Chamber); Francie Molloy MP and Alan Campbell (SONI).
2: Michael Campbell (Genesis Crafty); David Butler (SGN Natural Gas); Richard Murphy (Pinsent Masons); Charlene Jones (Henry Brothers); Chris Morrow (NI Chamber); Francie Molloy MP and Alan Campbell (SONI).