The Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation (NIAER) seeks views on enforcement notice

Published: 19 May 2006

Consultation opened on 19 May 2006. Consultation closed 30 June 2006.

Summary

The Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation (“NIAER”) today issued a formal Notice, a procedural step that enables enforcement action to be taken against Phoenix Natural Gas if appropriate. The Notice relates to the fairness of Phoenix distribution network pricing. However, the Authority has made clear that the Notice need not lead to enforcement action, but that its 6 week consultation period creates a window of opportunity in which to resolve a number of outstanding regulatory matters with Phoenix Natural Gas.

The Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation (“NIAER”) today issued a formal Notice, a procedural step that enables enforcement action to be taken against Phoenix Natural Gas if appropriate. The Notice relates to the fairness of Phoenix distribution network pricing. However, the Authority has made clear that the Notice need not lead to enforcement action, but that its 6 week consultation period creates a window of opportunity in which to resolve a number of outstanding regulatory matters with Phoenix Natural Gas.

Commenting on the new time-limited framework for discussions, Peter Matthews, the new Chairman of NIAER said:
“ It is of paramount importance that the next six weeks are fully utilised. I am hopeful that during this period we can resolve the issues addressed by the Notice. Our aim is to ensure fair treatment of all customers and competing gas suppliers, while protecting the legitimate commercial rights set out by Phoenix’s licence. The Regulator, Phoenix’s management, and its new owners can all play our part to benefit gas customers in Northern Ireland.”

Acting Head of Ofreg, Dermot MacCann added,
“ I look forward to achieving a ‘Firm but Fair’ approach to the regulation of Phoenix during, and beyond this consultation period.”

The notice can be viewed by clicking HERE alternatively a paper copy can be obtained from Sarah Brady by contacting her either in writing at Ofreg, Queens House, 14 Queen Street, Belfast, BT1 6ER, or by telephone on 028 9031 6642 or by Fax. on 028 9031 1740 or email sarah.brady@ofregni.gov.uk.

Responses are required on or before 30 June 2006 preferably by electronic mail to sarah,brady@ofregni.gov.uk.

Copies of the paper will be made available in large print, Braille, audio cassette and a variety of relevant minority languages if required.

Notes for Editors

OFREG (the Office for the Regulation of Electricity and Gas) supports the Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation (NIAER) the regulator of the Electrcity and Gas industries in Northern Ireland. NIAER’s powers are derived from the Electricity (Northern Ireland) Order 1992, the Gas (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 both as amended by the Energy (Northern Ireland) Order 2003.

Notes for Editors
1. Under the relevant legislation, transmission and distribution (together known as conveyance) and the supply of natural gas are licensable activities in Northern Ireland. Phoenix was first granted a licence in 1996, at which point it started to build its new gas network. The licence gave it exclusive rights to transmit, distribute and supply gas in an area which included Larne and the Belfast conurbation. The licence requires among other things that prices for use of Phoenix’s distribution network are non-discriminatory.
2. The Notice is issued under Article 43 of the Energy (Northern Ireland) Order 2003. It sets out the Authority’s reasons for believing a licence breach is happening or is likely to happen. These relate to discrimination in distribution network charges between Phoenix companies and other gas suppliers. The Notice provides a 6 week period, which will be used for exchange of information between the Regulator and company, and it is hoped this will lead to the Authority concluding that enforcement action is not appropriate.
3. The Notice is accompanied by a related information request under Article 51 of the Energy (Northern Ireland) Order 2003, collecting data that would facilitate any subsequent enforcement action on this matter.
4. OFREG (the Office for the Regulation of Electricity and Gas) supports the Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation (NIAER) the regulator of the electricity and gas industries in Northern Ireland. NIAER’s powers are derived from the Electricity (Northern Ireland) Order 1992, the Gas (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 both as amended by the Energy (Northern Ireland) Order 2003.
5. Following the retirement of Mr Douglas Mc Ildoon on 31 March 2006, the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive have been separated. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment has appointed Mr Peter Matthews as Chairman of the Authority with effect from 1 April 2006. The Authority has appointed Mr Iain Osborne as its Chief Executive and he will take up his post on 15 June 2006.

For further information contact Terry McErlane at Weber Shandwick Telephone 028 90761007 or 07770886911