Northern Ireland

High energy cost 'causing crisis in NI economy'

Pylons
Image caption Energy costs for NI industry are the second most expensive in Europe, after Italy

High energy costs are causing "a crisis" in the Northern Ireland economy, a Stormont committee has been told.

One firm has said that the jobs of 100 of its staff are under threat.

Big companies like Bombardier and Harland and Wolff are currently paying the second highest costs in Europe,

Niall Irwin, of Portadown-based Irwin's Bakery, told the enterprise committee energy costs were "close" to forcing it to move part of its production to GB.

He said: "One hundred staff would go. That is how serious it is if we do not get lower power."

The committee has been taking evidence from Manufacturing NI, which represents 500 businesses.

They argue the cost of power is also hampering Northern Ireland's ability to attract more foreign companies.

"High energy costs are stifling recovery from the recession and damaging growth," said Bryan Gray of Manufacturing NI.

"We call on the Northern Ireland Executive to convene a forum of expertise to come up with a strategy to get power costs down and give manufacturing a real boost," he said.

Manufacturing NI said the problem was growing, not easing, and that an absence of a strategy "is no longer acceptable."

It follows the publication of data on electricity costs by the utility regulator in March.

Energy prices for domestic users, along with 70% of smaller businesses, are in line with European averages.

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