Business

Cold 2015 sees income improve at Phoenix Natural Gas

NEW ROUTE: Phoenix Natural Gas said it hoped to commence work on the pipelines next spring

ENERGY firm Phoenix Natural Gas saw an increase in income last year thanks to more customers connecting to the network and colder than average temperatures.

The company is responsible for the development of the gas network in the greater Belfast area and east Co Down.

Turnover rose to £49.1 million in 2015 from £48.2m the previous year.

However, operating profits fell to £15.2m (against £16m in 2014) due to a £1.7m increase in operating costs which reached £33.9m.

The company reported a bottom line loss of £4.1m (roughly in line with 2014). However, this follows £20m in various loans including from its parent company.

Phoenix, which is marking 20 years in Northern Ireland, has a gas network that extends to more than 3,300km making gas available to more than 310,000 properties.

It invested around £10.6m in capital expenditure during the year, extending the network by a further 53km and connecting almost 10,000 new customers.

The company is subject to regulation by the Utility Regulator and as such must have spending plans signed off by the watchdog in the form of a price control.

In their strategic report filed with annual accounts at Companies House, Phoenix directors said: "The actual distribution income charged in 2015 was £0.1m lower than the allowed level within the price control (once you adjust for return on accumulated over-recovered incoming of £5m at the beginning of the year) leaving £4.9m of over-recovered income at the end of 2015.

"This over-recovery will be carried forward and returned to all system users through slightly lower conveyance charges in subsequent years.

"The volume of gas transported through the network in 2015 of 139.9 million therms (mt) was 10.4mt more than that experienced in 2014 as a result of a growth in the number of customers burning gas and a slight increase in the average consumption relative to the previous year.

"Gas consumption in 2015 was impacted by weather being slightly colder than the 5-year average whilst in 2014 temperatures wer estimated to be warmer than average."

In December, Phoenix was granted approval to extend its network area into east Down.

The £58m extension will connect 13 towns to natural gas for the first time.

They are Annahilt, Ballygowan, Ballynahinch, Castlewellan, Crossgar, Downpatrick, Dromore, Drumaness, Dundrum, Hillsborough, Newcastle, Saintfield and Spa.

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