Energy Minister Arlene Foster has met with a number of large energy users to discuss their concerns about the cost of energy.
fter the meeting Arlene Foster said: “Energy costs are one of the major issues facing businesses in the current tough economic climate.
“Continuing to develop a competitive energy market is a key aim of the Northern Ireland Executive’s Strategic Energy Framework. I am therefore in continuous contact with the Utility Regulator in relation to energy costs and, although I have no role in setting energy prices, DETI and the Utility Regulator can and do work together to put downward pressure on energy costs where possible.”
During the meeting the Minister discussed the ongoing work of the Department in relation to the proposed extension of the gas network. Following the completion of a technical and economic feasibility study on gas extension in 2010, and a public consultation by the Department in 2011, preparation of a more detailed business case for extension of the gas network to towns in the West and to East Down is currently underway.
Arlene Foster continued: “I welcome the companies' support for extension of the natural gas network to the main towns in the West. Natural gas has the potential to provide efficiency and cost benefits to businesses compared to other fuels. Alongside the action being taken by my Department, the Utility Regulator is also working on a consultation concerning licensing issues for taking natural gas to new areas of Northern Ireland.
“Businesses need to ensure they obtain the best possible terms for their energy supply, and I know that the Utility Regulator and Manufacturing NI have produced guidance on this, which I would encourage companies to use. While securing the best rate is important, the biggest savings in energy costs come from reducing consumption.”
The Minister also advised the companies that Invest Northern Ireland has the ability to use its Selective Financial Assistance scheme to support projects which have the potential to reduce energy costs and improve energy efficiency.
Arlene Foster concluded: “I would encourage any large energy user to bring forward projects for assessment by Invest NI – these can be projects associated with both renewable energy solutions and also those which will, more general make companies, more carbon friendly.”