Energy Bill 'priority' for Enterprise Minister

Sir Reg Empey the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, has taken the process of introducing new legislation governing the electricity and gas industries in Northern Ireland closer by launching a draft Energy Bill for public consultation.

The bill which seeks to establish a new Regulatory Authority for electricity and gas comes in the wake of calls made by Ofreg to NIE to cut electricity costs.

Speaking today Sir Reg said he hoped the consultation document would lead to the debate on energy issues stepping up again.

“My immediate priority is to ensure that Northern Ireland is well placed to rise to the challenges of a changing energy environment and is ready to grasp opportunities to improve the diversity of energy supply while also making every effort to minimise the cost of energy to consumers,” he said.

The bill proposes to give the Authority enhanced powers, in particular enabling it to impose fines on electricity and gas licence holders for breach of licence conditions or standards of performance.

It will also call for grater transparency in the various business activities of energy companies.

The consultation paper circulated today follows on from the Department’s earlier consultation “Towards a New Energy Market Strategy for Northern Ireland”, and includes priority energy issues, which require legislation.

Sir Reg said: “There is tremendous interest in energy matters and there were very comprehensive responses to the initial consultation. The recommendations in the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee’s Energy Inquiry Report have also been a vital indicator for identifying the priorities now contained in the draft Energy Bill. Work on the energy market strategy also continues and a draft of this will be published later in the year. I have appointed a Steering Group of energy experts to advise the Department on both the legislation and the developing strategy.”

The Steering Group includes the current electricity regulator, Douglas McIldoon, and other representatives with expertise of electricity, gas and renewables issues, in addition to expert with all-island, EU and consumer perspectives.

The Bill also provides for the introduction in Northern Ireland of a Renewables Obligation. This will place an obligation on electricity suppliers to purchase a proportion of their electricity from renewable generators. The Bill seeks to construct an ‘Obligation’ which would enable the trading of Renewable Obligation Certificates on a UK-wide basis. This will require amendment of the Great Britain legislation and the Orders made under it.

The Minister also emphasised that this Energy Bill is part of ongoing legislation and consultation taking place in relation to energy.

He said: “This draft Energy Bill contains key energy issues, some of which are also urgent. It is important that these are progressed as quickly as possible.”


Related Northern Ireland Business News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

25 September 2003
Minister announces £30m electricity initiative
Enterprise Minister, Ian Pearson has announced plans to invest £30 million in a new initiative aimed at reducing electricity bills for Northern Ireland's businesses. It is hoped that the funding, which is part of a draft budget, will help businesses save 10% on their electricity bills.
30 August 2001
nevada tele.com ‘logs’ on to eco energy
Leading business telecommunications and Internet provider nevada tele.com have become Northern Ireland’s first ‘e-nvironmentally’ friendly telecoms and internet company by logging onto green electricity, Eco Energy.
16 November 2001
Energy Efficiency workshop set for Portadown
The Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme is set it launch its ‘Essential skills and techniques for managing energy’ workshops in Portadown on December 4.
26 May 2010
Competition Sparks NI Electricity Market
A Republic of Ireland energy firm will begin selling power to households in Northern Ireland from June. Airtricity will be the first company to compete with NIE Energy in the domestic electricity market.
25 October 2004
Energy users urged to cut fuel bills and save environment
Millions of people could save money on fuel bills and help cut harmful greenhouse gases by joining in Energy Efficiency Week - a big energy-saving 'turn off' campaign kicking off today. Organised by the Energy Saving Trust, the nationwide campaign aims to raise awareness of the damage that wasting energy does to the climate.