‘Politicians must protect our power sector jobs’ - unions

Former Secretary of State James Brokenshire (right) visited Kilroot Power Station in Carrickfergus in 2016 to meet the senior leadership of owners AES and see the investment being made in innovative energy storage solutions. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography.
Former Secretary of State James Brokenshire (right) visited Kilroot Power Station in Carrickfergus in 2016 to meet the senior leadership of owners AES and see the investment being made in innovative energy storage solutions. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography.

Union representatives are calling on the Government and local politicians to intervene to prevent the loss of hundreds of jobs at power stations in East Antrim.

Speaking on behalf of all three unions representing workers in AES Ballylumford and Kilroot power stations, GMB, Prospect and Unite the union, Joanne McWilliams, Regional officer for Unite, expressed the shock and anger of the workforce.

“Management has indicated to us that critical generation units at both AES Ballylumford and Kilroot Power Stations have been denied contracts for supply under the All-Island electricity capacity auction. This decision will mean that the company cannot cover their fixed costs.

“As a result Kilroot Power Station in Carrickfergus now faces closure from the end of May 2018. This outcome threatens to make redundant all 150 AES workers onsite as well as the 120 direct, full-time contractors who are employed by local firms.

“Union representatives are calling on local politicians and the UK government to intervene in the decision of the All-Island regulatory authorities and transmission system operators not to award Capacity Market Remuneration (CRM) contracts to the units,

“This decision effectively shuts down 36 per cent of Northern Ireland’s electrical generation capacity. Such an outcome will be a disaster for local jobs and security of supply.”

The unions warn the threat to jobs is a further blow in an area where the economy has been badly affected in recent times.

“This announcement strikes at the heart of the Antrim community which over the last three years has been struck by huge jobs losses and jobs threats at the like of JTI-Gallahers, Michelin, Bombardier, Mivan, Schlumberger and Sensata (Schrader Electronics).

“AES workers produced energy to meet 22% of Northern Ireland’s demand in 2017. In making this decision, the new all-island system operator hasn’t explained from where these missing megawatts will come this coming winter meaning a grave risk of uncertainty about the power supply for all Northern Ireland firms and households. We will be ever more dependent on supply from outside this jurisdiction.

“Kilroot power station workers keep the rest of Northern Ireland working by keeping the lights on. Local politicians must protect our power sector jobs and demand that the system operator and the utility regulator guarantee security of electricity supply for Northern Ireland until new generational capacity and the second North-South interconnector are fully-operational in late 2021”, Ms McWilliams said.