A paper published by the UK government has outlined the unique situation facing both Northern and the Republic of Ireland following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.
Ireland shares a Single Electricity Market (SEM) which connects directly to the UK Mainland, which has ensured that the Irish energy sector has closely followed the progress of the Brexit talks.
The current system is currently being transformed into an Integrated Single Electricity Market (ISEM) to conform with current EU legislation.
However, Ireland is dependent on the UK for a quantity of its gas supply.
The paper states that the UK and Irish governments and the EU should have a desire to support energy supply in a unique situation.
The UK government has set out its key principles to be addressed as part of any Irish energy framework:
- facilitating the continuation of efficient electricity and gas interconnection between the island of Ireland and Great Britain.
- recognising the importance placed on cross-border cooperation in the Good Friday Agreement, which provides for cooperation between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and the UK and Ireland.
- taking account of the strategic importance to Northern Ireland and Ireland of maintaining affordable, secure, and sustainable supplies of electricity and gas for businesses and domestic consumers.
- facilitating the continuation of a single electricity market covering Northern Ireland and Ireland.
- seeking to provide certainty as soon as possible for citizens, investors, and businesses in Northern Ireland and Ireland on energy arrangements, and
- including an appropriate interim period to ensure that any changes to current arrangements can be implemented successfully and in a timely way.
Conclusions from the paper suggest that discussions with the EU need to take place surrounding the avoidance of single electricity market disruption and ensuring that future legal frameworks do not undermine an effective operation of future markets.
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire stated: “It is clear that there are many areas where the UK, Ireland and the rest of the EU have shared objectives. We have a lot to build on but need to work together intensively over the coming months.”
The CBI stated that the paper did not contain suggestions regarding how the proposals set out could be achieved: “More detail must be forthcoming, and soon, to provide the policy certainty businesses and investors require.”
The UK Government added: “The energy industry on both sides of the Irish Sea has been calling for clarity on this issue ever since the referendum result.”
“While this paper offers some idea of the intended direction, it represents only the beginning of the debate, and there remains a very long way to go.”