Northern Ireland

Talks call over Northern Ireland businesses' electricity costs

Power lines
Image caption Manufacturing NI said electricity costs for some Northern Ireland businesses are the highest in Europe.

Enterprise minister Arlene Foster has been urged to convene talks over the cost of electricity for Northern Ireland businesses.

The lobby group Manufacturing NI said electricity costs for some Northern Ireland businesses are the highest in Europe.

It said this was confirmed by a report published on Friday by the Utility Regulator.

The group said it was "critical" that the minister "stepped in".

Figures released by the regulator on Friday showed business customers in the small-to-medium category paid more than rest of the UK, Ireland and continental Europe.

Manufacturing NI said the businesses affected are at a 15% cost disadvantage to those of a similar size in the Republic and 20% compared to the rest of the UK.

"The minister should chair a meeting this week with the Utility Regulator, energy companies and business representatives to look at ways to immediately address problems in our energy market," it said.

"We currently face a crisis and unless there is intervention we face a catastrophe."

The body said the high costs made it difficult for local companies to expand.

It said big manufacturing firms faired little better, with electricity prices just below the rest of the UK and Italy, according to the latest data.

The figures released by the Utility Regulator covered July to September.

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