DETI Oral Question on Electricity Generating Capacity as a Result of ongoing Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Electricity Generating Capacity

  1. Mr Beggs asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to advise what action is being taken to ensure that we have diversity in our electricity generating capacity and to ensure that we are not enabling excessive profits to be made by those generators, given the ongoing conflict between the Ukraine and Russia, which, although it may seem to be a little bit far away, given our reliance on gas, surely must be of concern to us all. (AQT 1453/11-15)

Mr Hamilton: The Member may be right to characterise that situation as seemingly remote and distant to the activities of this House, but when civil unrest or crisis happens in eastern Ukraine, it has an impact further afield.  The Member is right to highlight the impact that it could potentially have on gas supplies, as so many natural gas supplies for Europe come from Russia and through Ukraine.  As I understand it, most of the UK’s supply of natural gas that is not our own comes from either liquefied natural gas or from Norway, but those ships can be diverted mid-sea to go to other places where that gas is needed or where a higher price is paid.  That is something that we should be aware of.  It may not be seen as a pressing matter in this place, but that is one reason why the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister and others in the Executive, including me, have long talked about security of supply rather than prices.

We need to continue to focus on achieving our Programme for Government targets for the diversification of our energy sources.  I also note that we are on track to reach our target in terms of renewables.  We also have to press ahead with improving our infrastructure.  That includes the North/South interconnector, which will ensure that Northern Ireland’s electricity supply can benefit from having better connectivity to the Irish Republic.

Mr Beggs: The latest power station proposal in Northern Ireland has been for a sizeable power station in the scenic Inver area outside Larne.  That was initially floated as being a unit for renewable energy storage, although I have noticed that it requires a high-pressure gas supply and so would be heavily dependent on gas in the future.  Can the Minister assure me, perhaps from his DFP background as well as while standing in for DETI, that no public funding will be used to create yet another gas-dependent power station, as the future of that supply is insecure?

Mr Hamilton: I do not know enough about the potential power station to pass any definitive comment, and I would be cautious about doing so either on my behalf or on behalf of the Enterprise, Trade and Investment   Minister.  I will therefore refrain from passing particular comment on that.  I am not sure what the status of that proposal is or whether the proposer has applied for public money.  However, I am sure that officials will have heard the Member raise the query, and I will ensure that they write to him with more detail.

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