The Chief Executive of the Utility Regulator, Iain Osborne, today said that: ‘The developing science of climate change shows clearly that Northern Ireland society is not environmentally sustainable, and our utilities contribute to this problem’.
He was commenting at the launch of a Utility Regulator’s consultation document, ‘Sustainable Development – The Regulator’s Role’. Mr Osborne pointed to the higher ecological footprint of Northern Ireland relative to other parts of the UK and the heavy reliance on fossil fuels as evidence of the challenge for utility service providers in relation to sustainable development.
Mr Osborne stated that the Utility Regulator ‘has a vital role to play’ in promoting sustainability:
“We are a main gate-keeper to infrastructure investment in three sectors with high environmental impact i.e. gas electricity and water. We intend through this consultation and the resulting action plan to ensure that our own regulation contributes more to sustainable development”.
The consultation document says that the Utility Regulator has a role to play in promoting sustainability by gathering and publishing more evidence, contributing its expertise and experience to wider government policy and regulating differently.
A series of draft proposals are contained in the consultation document for regulating differently. These proposals are:
- Creating clarity for licence holders - (those companies who are licensed by the Utility Regulator to provide utility services) and customers regarding licence holder duties – considering whether licencees should be required to have an environmental policy and provide an annual report on sustainability initiatives
- Giving better information to customers – such as working with licence holders to consider all options in relating to presenting environmental information on bills and investigating the use of Smart Meters
- Sending the Right Signals to Customers – working with energy licence holders to assess tariff structures, so that they should not lead to increased energy consumption, and with NIE and NIW to develop a transparent charging system for new dwellings and commercial premises which should encourage greater energy efficiency and the use of renewable technology
- Electricity Networks and access for renewables – ensure that processes and procedures equitably accommodate renewable generation and ensuring – as part of all future gas and electricity price controls - that capital expenditure profiles take due consideration of the effects of climate change on networks
- Encouraging Energy efficiency – reviewing energy efficiency delivery models, considering the development of the Energy Services Company model, where energy companies, rather than simply supplying energy to individual homes, supply energy services such as better energy efficiency measures. Working with DETI and other stakeholders in relation to the implementation of the energy services directive
- Gas Promotion – to develop a strategy that take into consideration the advantages of gas as a low carbon fuel
- Water – to work with NIW and other environmental regulators to consider the impact of climate change and identify risks and mitigating factors that can be developed into targets for the water industry and appropriately including guidance in the NIW business cases on emissions and other water conservation measures.
- Keeping our own house in order – adopt an internal sustainability policy, establish an internal groups and publish an internal sustainability report as part of the Utility Regulator’s Annual Report.
The consultation is scheduled to last until 1 August 2008 and Mr Osborne is encouraging all those with an interest to make their views known:
“ We want the consultation document to stimulate a debate on issues that affect Northern Ireland’s utility consumers both present and the future. Such a debate will focus on how we can collectively contribute to addressing sustainable development in a joined-up, concerted way.’
The paper can be viewed by clicking on NIAUR_sustainability_consultation_paper.pdf or alternatively a paper copy can be obtained by contacting Sarah Brady at the address below. Copies of the document will be made available in large print, Braille, audio cassette and a variety of relevant minority languages if required.
NIAUR welcomes comments, representations and objections on any of the proposals set out in the document and should be sent, by 17:00 on 1August 2008 preferably in electronic format to:
Social and Environmental Branch
Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation
Telephone: +44 2890 316642
Respondents should indicate clearly if any part of their response should be treated confidentially.