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27/06/2008

Rathlin's Big 'Switch' Pulled

Rathlin islanders are at last able to enjoy a dependable supply of electricity.

Yesterday, NI Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy officially switched on a new 10.4km subsea electricity cable which extends from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island.

He said that the new cable connects islanders to the main electricity network for the first time and provides them with the same level of supply as the rest of Northern Ireland.

"The new cable installed by NIE will deliver a more reliable electricity supply to the homes and businesses on Rathlin Island, as well as supporting the entire island with its various development plans.

"The cable provides a capacity and quality of electricity supply to the island which is equivalent to that of other customers.

"It will also ensure a supply to islanders for their future electricity demands.

"This is essential to ensure the long term sustainability of the Rathlin Island community including its potential to support tourism," he said.

Meanwhile, Laurence MacKenzie, Managing Director, Northern Ireland Electricity said: "We are delighted to complete the connection of Rathlin Island to Northern Ireland's electricity grid.

"This is very much a landmark day in a successful project which will provide a more dependable electricity supply to the homes and businesses on Rathlin.

"This project is part NIE's ongoing investment in the electricity network across Northern Ireland, an investment which continually upgrades the security of supply to all our customers," he said, noting that work on this project has been ongoing since 2005 and has been welcomed by the Rathlin Development Community Association.

The development of renewable energy projects on the island could also be enhanced by the completion of the cable project, as it now provides the opportunity to export generated renewable electricity.

Prior to the installation of the new subsea electricity cable, Rathlin Island was not connected to the main electricity system with power being provided over past years by wind turbines, diesel generating sets and battery storage.

Yesterday too, NI Energy Minister Arlene Foster made a point of encouraging Northern Ireland to have 'its say' in the debate about renewable energy.

The Minister spoke as the UK Government published a Renewable Energy Strategy for consultation.

"I am encouraging the people of Northern Ireland, and in particular those working in the energy industry and the sector’s key stakeholders, to have their say in this consultation," Mrs Foster said.

"Northern Ireland has some of the best conditions in Europe for renewable electricity production and we want to hear your views on how we can maximise this potential – and how we can start to increase levels of renewable heat consumption.

"We are almost wholly dependent on the import of fossil fuels. As the prices of these continue to increase, Northern Ireland must ensure it has access to secure, competitively priced and sustainable energy supplies.

"Boosting the production and consumption of renewable energy is a key part of my strategy to achieve this," she said.

(BMcC)

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