Northern Ireland news

Lights could go out within months at power station which has kept Northern Ireland's lights on

More than 200 jobs are at risk as Kilroot power station faces closure. Picture by Bill Smyth
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE lights could go out within months on the Co Antrim power station which has kept Northern Ireland's lights on for a generation.

All 120 workers at the coal-fired Kilroot plant near Carrickfergus could lose their jobs after owners AES failed to win a contract in a new auction process aimed at increasing competition in the all-Ireland wholesale supply market.

And nearby Ballylumford, which like Kilroot is owned by AES, also faces an uncertain future, putting a further 30 jobs under threat, with 120 contract workers also set to be axed.

It is understood a 90-day notice for redundancies could be issued as early next week.

Without a new contract to feed into the new all-island single electricity market - where suppliers auction for a series of one-year contracts intended to increase competition and lower prices - Kilroot cannot cover its costs and is now expected to close when the market begins operating in May.

Joanne McWilliams, regional officer for Unite, said she was shocked and angered at the development, which effectively shuts down a third of Northern Ireland's electrical generation capacity and threats to disrupt future supply to homes and businesses.

"Management has indicated to us that critical generation units at both AES Ballylumford and Kilroot power stations have been denied contracts for supply under the all-island electricity capacity auction," she said.

"This decision will mean that the company cannot cover their fixed costs. As a result, Kilroot power station in Carrickfergus now faces closure within months.

"This outcome threatens to make redundant all 150 AES workers on site as well as the 120 direct, full-time contractors who are employed by local firms.

"We need local politicians and the UK government to intervene in the decision of the all-island regulatory authorities and transmission system operators not to award Capacity Market Remuneration (CRM) contracts to the units.

"Shutting down 36 per cent of our electrical generation capacity will be a disaster for local jobs and security of supply."

The new market has been designed by the utility regulators on both sides of the border and the auction process was run by the Eirgrid group, which operates the electricity grid.

It is understood there were 100 bidders in the auction, of which 93 were successful.

AES UK & Ireland president Ian Luney said that over the last three years, Kilroot met 22 per cent of local electricity demand and he was "surprised" at the decision not to award the contract.

He added: "With the likely absence of any significant and reliable new generation in the next four years and a north-south interconnector that isn't expected to come online until 2021, we are concerned that the removal of capacity at Kilroot and Ballylumford could contribute to a significant risk to the security and stability of supply in Northern Ireland."

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