Cost of keep­ing Kil­root Power Sta­tion open will ‘load £14m on to cus­tomers’ en­ergy bills’

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY MAR­GARET CAN­NING

A DEAL to keep open Kil­root Power Sta­tion with the res­cue of around 150 jobs comes at a £14m cost to North­ern Ire­land con­sumers and busi­nesses, it has been claimed.

The power sta­tion has been granted a one-year gen­er­at­ing con­tract af­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions with the NI Util­ity Reg­u­la­tor and SONI, the op­er­a­tor of the elec­tric­ity grid here.

But it is un­der­stood around 85 jobs will be lost at Bal­ly­lum­ford Power Sta­tion in Is­land­magee, Co Antrim, as the agree­ment in­volves the trans­fer of a gen­er­at­ing con­tract from Bal­ly­lum­ford to Kil­root near Car­rick­fer­gus.

AES, the US en­ergy gi­ant which owns the power sta­tions, last year lost out on a ca­pac­ity auc­tion run by net­work owner EirGrid in the Repub­lic, and its coun­ter­part SONI here.

AES said that as a re­sult, 270 jobs were at risk — so the news of a new con­tract is a re­prieve for many of its work­ers. Stephen Kelly, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Man­u­fac­tur­ing NI, said elec­tric­ity would be more ex­pen­sive af­ter the En­ergy Reg­u­la­tor gave the nod to the £14m con­tract cost be­ing col­lected from con­sumers and busi­nesses.

“Our elec­tric­ity sys­tem op­er­a­tor, SONI, and Util­ity Reg­u­la­tor have folded at the threat from AES to pull all their gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity from the North­ern Ire­land mar­ket,” he said.

“This has re­sulted in a very dan­ger­ous prece­dent where £14m of con­sumers’ money is be­ing loaded on to bills which have al­ready risen al­most 20% for do­mes­tic con­sumers and up to 34% for busi­ness con­sumers in this past month.”

But Robin McCormick, the gen­eral man­ager of the Sys­tem Op­er­a­tor for North­ern Ire­land (SONI), said it had de­cided that the early clo­sure of Kil­root and part of Bal­ly­lum­ford would have brought “sig­nif­i­cant im­pact to the power sys­tem which would mean se­cu­rity of sup­ply could not be main­tained”.

It had there­fore de­cided to main­tain the units.

Davy Thomp­son, Unite re­gional co-or­di­nat­ing of­fi­cer, wel­comed the pro­tec­tion of the jobs for an­other year and said he hoped the one-year con­tract would roll over for an­other year.

“At the same time, this is bit­ter­sweet news, as it con­firms that up to 80 AES po­si­tions will be lost as Bal­ly­lum­ford B power sta­tion is closed,” he said.

But Roger Polen of the Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­nesses said: “En­ergy is one of the big­gest costs which busi­nesses face, so the news that elec­tric­ity bills will in­crease as a re­sult of this an­nounce­ment will be met with dis­ap­point­ment by small busi­ness own­ers.”

AES said its sys­tem sup­port ser­vices agree­ment with SONI would give “12 months es­sen­tial sta­bil­ity”. AES did not say how many jobs will be af­fected though it is be­lieved 85 Bal­ly­lum­ford jobs will go.

Kil­root Power Sta­tion out­sideCar­rick­fer­gus

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