BY ANTHONY QUINN
COOKSTOWN and Magherafelt homes will soon be benefiting from cheaper gas supplies after the government announced it was to expand the piped gas network to the Mid-Ulster area.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has announced that pipeline construction work could begin in Mid-Ulster as early as 2015, offering a cheaper source of fuel to local households and businesses.
In a separate move, minister Foster also launched a renewable heat incentive, offering £25m in incentive payments for up to twenty years to businesses and other organisations installing renewable heat technologies to help offset ongoing energy costs.
The Department of Enterprise has already completed a major feasibility report into extending the network to cover Dungannon, Cookstown, Magherafelt, Omagh, Enniskillen and Strabane.
Minister Foster said that the proposals had been met with whole-hearted support from the natural gas sector, local industry and the public sector.
Her DUP colleague MLA Maurice Morrow welcomed the move.
“In an era of high energy costs it is important that all alternatives are looked at and available for consumers.”
The DUP representative said that he had watched the issue with interest and had done all in his power to ensure that the local area was treated in an in an equitable manner with other regions of Northern Ireland.
Natural gas was first introduced to Northern Ireland in 1996 and is now available to industrial and commercial users, the public sector and domestic customers in the Greater Belfast and Larne area and to customers in ten towns and cities along the route of the South-North and North-West pipelines, that is, Londonderry, Limavady, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine, Newry, Craigavon, Antrim, Banbridge and Armagh.
Extending natural gas to new areas will bring greater choice for consumers, help shift the dependence on coal and oil for household heating and increase the potential for businesses and the public sector to use a cleaner more efficient fuel.