No-deal Brexit could result in blackouts in the North, leaked documents reveal
NI faces drastic price rises and being cut off from Republic
One of the North’s main power stations, the Kilroot plant in Co Antrim, is due to close on Sunday, after it failed to secure subsidies to provide back-up power
Northern Ireland faces blackouts and drastic electricity price rises in the event of a no-deal Brexit, leaked British government documents reveal.
The North would likely be cut off from electricity supplies from the Republic and unable to use its sole electricity link to Britain, according to an internal briefing.
Officials have been warning for months that Northern Ireland’s electricity market could collapse, triggering “unprecedented consequences” and forcing authorities to prepare to take energy infrastructure into public ownership to keep the lights on.
The British government documents, shared widely across Whitehall, show that in the event of a no-deal Brexit:
– Householders in Northern Ireland could see electricity bills rise by up to £200 (€225).
– Energy companies could collapse.
– Diesel generators would be needed to keep power supplies running.
– The UK government has not yet talked to power station operators in Northern Ireland.
For more than a decade, the Republic and Northern Ireland have had a joint electricity market, known as the Single Electricity Market (SEM), allowing power to be traded across the border.
But that market would probably collapse if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, because there would no longer be a basis for staying in the SEM. A deal with the EU is described as “essential” to the market’s future.
“Without a deal there are significant price and security of supply risks for Northern Ireland,” according to the government briefing. Those include “electricity blackouts”, “up to 34 per cent increase in [ELECTRICITY] bills”, and the need for “heavy government intervention”.
Officials expect that for two years Northern Ireland would not be able to draw power supplies from its sole electricity link to Britain, the Moyle interconnector to Scotland, while new cross-border arrangements were drawn up.
The Unite union said that the warnings of blackouts should lead to a rethink on the closure of Kilroot, which represents more than a third of the North’s electricity generating capacity.
Senior energy industry figures have told the Guardian that Northern Ireland is not sustainable as an energy market on its own, because of its relatively small size.
However, they believe that in the event of a no-deal Brexit and the SEM collapsing, a way would be found to keep electricity supplies running cross-border.
Previous government leaks have suggested that a flotilla of electricity generators on barges could be sent to Northern Ireland if the UK crashed out of the EU. – Guardian News and Media 2018