Northern Ireland’s leading business and industry groups have united to call for the urgent delivery of the North South Interconnector.
The coalition, including the NI Chamber, CBI NI, IoD, Federation of Small Businesses, Centre for Competitiveness and the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association have described the project as a ‘catalyst for the NI Economy’ and will be delivering that message to the Public Inquiry into the project which begins in Armagh on Wednesday 22nd Feb 2017.
The North South Interconnector will provide a critical link between the electricity grids in Northern Ireland and the Republic; reducing the cost of electricity for consumers and ensuring NI has the electricity supply it needs to meet demand in the years to come.
The organisations which represent tens of thousands of businesses across Northern Ireland will emphasise their support for the planning proposal which could see the project delivered by the end of 2020.
Kirsty McManus, Head of Business Development at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry explains the significance of the project for Northern Ireland business: “Delivery of the North South Interconnector is a top priority for the Northern Ireland Chamber’s membership. Businesses and employers need access to electricity in the most cost efficient manner possible, and the proposed Interconnector is key to achieving this.
“It is an essential piece of infrastructure which will allow the all-island electricity market to do what it was designed to do – achieve savings for all consumers North and South; this has real value to business and therefore to our members and we will continue to vocalise our support.”
CBI NI Regional Director Angela McGowan says the North South Interconnector is a crucial piece of economic infrastructure: “A secure, sustainable and cost-efficient electricity supply is absolutely essential for large energy users and potential investors looking at Northern Ireland as somewhere to do business.
“As things stand, there is a threat to security of electricity supply from 2021 onwards. No modern economy can thrive without an affordable, guaranteed, supply of electricity.
“Therefore we need to see the proposed North South Interconnector delivered as soon as possible to provide the certainty needed by industry and employers to allow the NI economy to fulfil its potential.”
Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive at NIIRTA, which represents independent retailers across NI, says the project cannot suffer further delay: “As with other businesses, the cost of electricity is a major concern for independent retailers across the country.
“Having the North South Interconnector in place will allow the all-island market to work as efficiently as possible, generating savings to consumers everywhere. A vital aspect of achieving this is having the proposed Interconnector in place without any further delay.”
Roger Pollen, Head of External Affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses NI added: “FSB fully supports the delivery of the proposed Interconnector as soon as possible.
“Strategic infrastructure projects like this are vital for Northern Ireland’s economy as a whole, but particularly to support smaller businesses, which already face a number of challenges.
“Our members have concerns over prices levels and security of supply; the downward pressure that the Interconnector will create on electricity prices will benefit all of our smaller businesses and help them to grow and succeed in the future.”
Linda Brown, Director of the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland, says the delivery of the project is important to business leaders and employers: “Representing professional leaders from businesses of all sizes, we are very clear on the urgent need for the proposed North South Interconnector.
“When in place it will deliver significant benefits for the entire business community, as well as domestic consumers, as it will reduce the cost of electricity and ensure we have enough electricity to meet demand. This is an extremely time critical project for Northern Ireland from a security of supply viewpoint.
“With the southern section of the line having received planning permission in ROI in December 2016, we would encourage the planning authorities in NI to reach a positive decision on the application as soon as possible.”
Bob Barbour, Chief Executive of the Centre for Competitiveness, said: “Our focus is to help organisations from all sectors become more competitive, enabling them to grow, excel and be sustainable.
“The proposed North South Interconnector supports this ethos and will help achieve these goals for businesses and organisations throughout Ireland. This is essential if our members are to build their competitive advantage and continue to compete on a global scale.”
SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) is responsible for delivering planning approval for the interconnector and has welcomed the strong support from Northern Ireland business.
Robin McCormick, General Manager of SONI said it is in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland to see the project progress: “The North South Interconnector is without doubt the single most important infrastructure project on the island today. It is urgently required and will reduce costs for consumers north and south, by allowing the Single Electricity Market to work as efficiently as possible – which is particularly good news for business.
“The Public Inquiry is an opportunity for everyone with an interest in the project to participate in an independent planning process and we are pleased that this project, so critical to the Northern Ireland economy, has reached this stage. The hearing is timely and comes after the decision in December 2016, by the planning authority in the Republic of Ireland, to approve the southern element of the project.”
The Public Inquiry into the project is being held at the Armagh City Hotel and is anticipated to run for around three weeks.