Committee for the Economy: Energy Strategy Report

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:00 pm on 23rd November 2020.

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Photo of Paul Frew Paul Frew DUP 4:00 pm, 23rd November 2020

I entirely agree with the Member, I really do.

You can have all the energy strategies and plans in the world, but, unless you have a system operator that is fit for purpose, you will fail. What do I mean by that? The system operator here is the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI), and it has massive issues with independence and governance. That hurts Northern Ireland and will hurt Northern Ireland in the future. SONI has been before the Economy Committee only once. I must applaud my colleague Christopher Stalford, who tore them to pieces over the problems in SONI.

I will pick one example, as I know my time is short. SONI's owner is EirGrid. I have no problem with who owns SONI or with who owns the owners; it is the transparency issue that I have a real problem with. Since EirGrid has owned SONI, there has been a sifting of £12 million out of SONI to EirGrid for cross-charging. EirGrid will not tell us what it is for, what it was charged on or what it paid for, and it hides behind its statement of accounts to Companies House. EirGrid uses a model, FRS 101, to justify that secrecy and lack of transparency. If we do not have a system operator that functions properly, is fit for purpose, is at full capacity and is truly and properly independent, we will fail, no matter what strategy we put in place. No matter what plan we have for the future, if we do not have a fit-for-purpose and fixed SONI, we will fail. We will all pay, every one of us, but mostly our businesses and heavy industry users. That will be catastrophic for jobs, business and the economy.