UK government's response to NI electricity report late and lacking, committee says

A committee in Westminster has branded the UK government's response to its examination of the electricity sector in Northern Ireland as late and lacking in detail.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee accused the Northern Ireland Office of "hiding behind" other institutions and not offering its own answers.

The committee produced a report on the region's electricity sector in May. The British government response was received last week.

The report warned of a threat of a deficit in electricity supply by 2021 and the risk of increased energy prices in the region.

It also highlighted the importance of improving electricity connection across the Irish border - an issue of particular relevance in the context of the Brexit negotiations.

The committee also called on the Government to safeguard the electricity supply by extending the life of existing power stations or building new low-carbon power plants.

The response, received on December 15, repeatedly highlighted that electricity is a devolved issue that is the responsibility of the Stormont executive.

Committee chairman Dr Andrew Murrison MP said: "It is disappointing that the Government has taken so long to produce a response that says so little. Hiding behind other institutions, in particular the non-existent Northern Ireland Executive, on matters touching on critical national infrastructure is perplexing.

"We think government needs to apply some leadership in drawing together devolved administrations and private companies to find a solution to future energy needs."

In its response to the committee report, the British Government said it recognised 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," it stated.

The response highlighted that the Government committed to maintaining the Single Electricity Market (SEM) on the island of Ireland in its Brexit position paper on north-south relations in August.

"The UK and EU have mapped out areas of cooperation, including the SEM, that function on a cross-border North-South basis, in line with the principles of the Belfast Agreement," it said.

"We look forward to discussing solutions for preserving this cooperation in the next phase of negotiations."


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