Gas to the West project on target as former Ofgem head named Mutual Energy chair

Work on the Gas to the West project taking place at Upper Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh
Work on the Gas to the West project taking place at Upper Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh Work on the Gas to the West project taking place at Upper Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh

ENERGY infrastructure firm Mutual Energy has appointed the former head of self-styled consumer champion Ofgem in London as its new chairman.

The ex-banker will take up his role in January, when current chair Regina Finn steps down after a decade at the helm.

And it comes as Mutual Energy confirmed it was "on target" with building the 'Gas to the West' infrastructure.

Some 95 per cent of the 220km of pipeline needed to link towns like Dungannon, Cookstown, Enniskillen and Omagh to the existing network has been constructed, including all the major river and road crossings such as Lough Erne and the M1 motorway.

Around 700,000 contractor man hours have been worked on the project to date with a peak of around 500 workers active on the high-pressure pipeline alone, and testing on the pipes is due to get under way in the coming weeks.

Gas to the West, which will be delivered by Mutual Energy in conjunction with SGN Natural Gas, represents an investment of more than £250 million, with the first phase of the project having been operational since January 2017 when Strabane was switched on.

Mutual's outgoing chair Regina Finn said: “This has been the year in which Gas to the West became less about the paperwork of tendering and planning and much more about the on-the-ground delivery of a major infrastructure project.

"This major expansion of the gas network, adding substantially to Mutual Energy’s asset base, is very close to completion, and is already delivering services to key Northern Ireland consumers.

"Just as important is the fact that we have secured a £200 million long-term financing deal from Legal & General, which is great news for natural gas consumers in Northern Ireland because it delivers a major saving for them.”

Mutual Energy chief executive Paddy Larkin said: “Regina came to the company with great experience and credibility which she gained in Ireland and the UK, and we thank her for ten years’ excellent service.

"In David Gray, who has a lifetime of experience in regulation, energy and investments, we believe we have recruited a fitting successor. We look forward to working with him to continue to ensure that Mutual delivers for our key stakeholders – the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.”

Mr Gray, who was chair of Ofgem from 2013 until September past, said: “Mutual Energy has an important strategic role to play in the energy market in Northern Ireland and in the all island energy market and I look forward to making my contribution to that.”