Monday, 27 September 2010

Power to the people!

IT seems that to some where you get your ‘leccy (to those not born in working class Belfast that translates as “one’s electrical supply”) from is a major piece of political theatre in the making.

While it is early days in the complex network that is the European supply grid, the story so far is that the Republic of Ireland’s ESB wants to buy a major league chunk of NIE.

After a few weeks digesting this, unionist politicians have been saying that this is a step too far and represents a strategic risk.

Which, of course, would be a risk if we were still in some sort of Cold War scenario with bombers and submarines off the Bangor coast.

But with a fair proportion of Northern Ireland’s private sector companies having interests across the globe, across the North Channel and across the border, unionists pitching a hissy fit smacks of playing to the proverbial gallery.

It is with a sense of an impending election that one views the debate over our ‘leccy. On the one hand, the nationalist politicians will grasp at anything with the slightest suggestion of an all-Ireland agenda. On the other hand unionists will happily open a factory without considering who the owner is, but will mutter darkly about RoI having a strategic say in utilities.

As for the average consumer of ‘leccy, there is only one question: “Can we have lower bills please?” After all in many parts of the world, where there is a semblance of a free market, there is competition in the energy supply sector. Here in Norn Iron until recently it was practically like a Marxist state: here’s what you’re getting and this is what you are paying. Maybe Times They Our a-Changin' with the arrival of Airtricity in the domestic 'leccy supply market...

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