Mid Ulster business expansion thwarted by electric grid capacity

SDLP MLA for Mid-Ulster Patsy McGlone
SDLP MLA for Mid-Ulster Patsy McGlone

Businesses in the Cookstown area are unable to expand because the electricity grid in the area is ‘too weak’ according to SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone.

Mr McGlone has requested a meeting with Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) over the issue which he believes is ‘hindering’ businesses within the area from expanding.

The chairperson of the Assembly Enterprise committee was speaking after comments by the Group Chief Executive of Dale Farm, David Dobbin who revealed the company wants to expand production at its Cookstown factory but are presently unable to because they’ve been told they’ve reached their power supply limit.

Mr McGlone said: “We heard Mr Dobbin on the radio talking about wanting to further develop their business but they cannot because they– and it’s not just them but all of Cookstown - have reached their limit.

“It’s high time NIE started investing in the grid in the area and giving hard working businesses the opportunity to expand, which is needed to help our economy at this time.

A spokesperson for Northern Ireland Electricity told the MAIL: “We agree that a strong electricity network is vital to support the growing Northern Ireland economy. We are happy to meet with Mr McGlone to discuss the network reinforcement and investment needed to upgrade parts of the local electricity infrastructure.”

Last month it was revealed that more than one thousand wind turbines cannot be built because of issues with the electricity grid.

Chairman of a government advisory panel, David Surplus briefed the Enterprise Committee on considerations around renewable energy last month and said that the “antiquated” grid was incapable of dealing with the power generated when wind turbines were working at maximum capacity.

NIE controls the power grid in Northern Ireland and announced recently they wanted to raise bills by about £25 a year up to 2017. However the Competition Commission ruled that the increase should only be around £5 a year.

NIE said it needed the money for investment in the grid but the commission said its ruling “strikes the right balance” between the company and consumers.