MNI Statement- AES Contract
Northern Ireland has some of the highest business electricity prices in Europe and some of the highest levels of fuel poverty so today’s news that struggling families and firms will be lumped with an additional £14m on their electricity bills is unacceptable and proves once again that it is the poacher generators and not the gamekeepers who hold all the power when it comes to our electricity market.
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. 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.
AES Kilroot will now be in direct receipt of £30m of capacity and system services payments (£11.5m transferred from Ballylumford and £5m previously won in the capacity auction plus this additional ‘system services’ payment) for the powerstation where the wage bill in 2016 was just over £8m and in 2017 was £12.5m.
This comes 3 years almost to the day since Michelin in Ballymena announced it was to close, largely due to high energy prices, with the loss of 890 jobs.
Whilst not public money, this additional cost will have to be recovered directly from the pockets of families and firms so those making this decision need to be accountable for it. As yet we have had no confirmation of any tender process, no publication of the necessary technical assessment and no sight of why this contract will cost £14m.
Additionally, there is no assessment of what the closure of Ballylumford will mean for gas customers in the North and West who have benefitted with Ballylumford picking up a huge chunk of the gas transportation costs.
In the absences of this transparency, we believe that it is time for new governance and accountability at the Utility Regulator so the Chairman should step aside a new consumer focused Board appointed.