By ROBIN MORTON, Business Correspondent

BELFAST, Ireland, Nov. 01, 2000 (The Belfast Telegraph)—The Northern Ireland energy market moved into a new era today with the start of work on the province’s first high-efficiency gas turbine fired power station.

The £200m combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant at Ballylumford on Islandmagee will mean cheaper electricity generation and a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Premier Power, the British Gas (BG Group) subsidiary which operates Ballylumford, said the new plant, which is one of the province’s largest engineering projects, would be in operation by the end of 2002.

Enterprise Minister Sir Reg Empey, who launched the project at a ceremony at Ballylumford, said the development was excellent news for electricity consumers in the province.

He said: “The introduction of this state of the art power generation technology will lead to lower electricity prices, through fuel and other operating efficiencies, and to a cleaner environment via reductions in carbon dioxide and other emissions.”Although Ballylumford’s existing plant is already fired by natural gas, the 600 megawatt CCGT facility will reduce operating costs by 50%.

The present workforce of 250 will be reduced to 180, but Premier Power said it did not envisage any compulsory redundancies.

Colin Orr Burns, chief executive of Premier Power, said the new plant would position the company at the forefront of the new all-Ireland competitive electricity market.

The Department of Enterprise is contributing £10m to the project out of a £40m fighting fund which was earmarked for reducing electricity bills in the province.

The CCGT facility will be built alongside the existing power station and will replace existing units which date back to 1972.

It will be constructed by Ansaldo Energia, an Italian company which is a leading player in the power generation sector, and 400 workers will be required during the building phase.

The investment by BG Group was agreed as part of the drawing up of a new supply contract between Premier Power and Northern Ireland Electricity, which will run until 2012.

The new terms, which have been approved by the regulator, Douglas McIldoon, replace the original contract signed at the time of privatisation of the electricity industry.

Nigel Shaw, vice-president (UK Downstream) of BG Group said: “The savings which we will achieve at Ballylumford should translate through to the customer in terms of a price reduction of several percentage points.”Generation costs account for 80% of industrial bills and 60% of domestic bills in Northern Ireland, and power station costs are currently around 40% higher than in Britain.

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