The Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation (NIAER) appoints new Chief Executive

The Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation today announced the appointment of Mr Iain Osborne as Chief Executive, succeeding Mr Douglas McIldoon. Mr Osborne will take up post on June 15th 2006.

Mr Osborne joins NIAER from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition where he has worked since 2004 on the competition in pan-European gas markets. Prior to that he was Director of Consumer Markets at Ofgem, the energy regulator in GB. He has also held a number of senior posts in the private sector. As Chief Executive he will be responsible to the NIAER for the performance of its administrative arm, the Office for the Regulation of Electricity and Gas (Ofreg). Mr Osborne’s appointment follows an international competition.

The new Chief Executive arrives at a time of rapid change. The Authority now regulates gas as well as electricity and must ensure effective competition for all energy customers from 2007. European energy prices are higher and more volatile than for many years, while policies to promote sustainability are having a real impact. The Authority also aims to reduce costs and improve supply security by working with the Commission for Energy Regulation in the Republic of Ireland to introduce an all-island market for electricity, subject to necessary legislation. The Authority will in addition assume responsibility for the new water regime when it comes into effect.

Commenting on his appointment Mr Osborne said:

“I am delighted to accept this post at such an important time for utility regulation in Northern Ireland. I am very proud to succeed Douglas McIldoon and hope to lead the strong team he has built to address the many new challenges. I look forward to meeting Northern Ireland utility customers, and the people involved in providing their energy and water services, and to working with my southern counterparts to develop the all-island market.

“Ofreg exists primarily to protect customers. That includes promoting the industry’s development – particularly in gas – and promoting competition. Coming from Brussels I hope to develop the Authority’s international perspective, and I believe that Northern Ireland has opportunities to leap-frog by moving straight to best-practice solutions to new problems.

“This has never been more important, given high and volatile world energy prices. In particular, because these are pushing up Northern Ireland’s already unacceptably high fuel poverty levels. Drawing the road-map towards a sustainable economy is a key task for this generation of policy-makers, and utility regulators must play their part. Northern Ireland is blessed with rich resources of renewable energy, so reducing pollution from electricity generation must complement a stress on using energy more efficiently.”

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.

About the post
New arrangements for the Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation (NIAER) were announced in September 2005.
Under water reform it is intended that a new single regulatory authority encompassing water and energy will be established in April 2007.

The posts of Chief Executive and Chair of NIAER are currently both held by Douglas McIldoon. These posts will now be split following recommendations by the Better Regulation Taskforce on Independent Regulators.

Mr Osborne will become Chief Executive on June 15th 2006. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment will announce the new Chairperson in due course.

About Iain Osborne.

Mr Iain Osborne was born in Manchester,. He has a degree in French literature from Oxford University and an MA (Economics) from Manchester University. His first job involved caring for adults with learning difficulties, and then he joined the GB Department of Trade and Industry, where he worked on industrial competitiveness and telecommunications policy.

Leaving the Civil Service he joined McKinsey & Company, the strategic management consultancy. He later worked in a variety of senior roles with telecommunications companies, including the leading pan-European internet backbone operator. On joining Ofgem he became responsible for regulation of electricity and gas supply to end-users. This involved monitoring growing competition and progressive deregulation – for instance, he removed domestic price controls. He also created a strong enforcement team, leading to the first fines on energy companies for failure to meet acceptable standards of customer service.

Mr Osborne moved to Brussels in 2004, where he has worked on the European Commission’s competition-law review of energy markets, with particular focus on gas.

He has served on a number of voluntary boards and as a school governor.

About NIAER:

The role of the Authority is to regulate the electricity and natural gas industries in Northern Ireland. These industries occupy a central position in the NI economy and provide essential services for domestic, industrial and commercial electricity and gas customers. The Authority also places a high priority on sustainable development in the energy sector and promotes measures which will most effectively support renewables, CHP and energy efficiency.

Ofreg, which supports the Authority, is based in Belfast and currently has 26 members of staff, with an annual budget of £3m. The Authority’s objectives are set out in the respective Electricity and Gas Orders as amended by the Energy (Northern Ireland) Order. In summary the Authority has two main objectives:

? To protect the interests of electricity consumers with regard to price and quality of service by promoting competition in the Generation and Supply of Electricity; and

? To promote the development and maintenance of an economic and co-ordinated gas industry and to protect the interests of gas consumers with regard to price and quality of service.

The remit of the Authority is due to expand to encompass the regulation of the water and sewerage industry in Northern Ireland from 1st April 2007, subject to the enactment of necessary legislation. It is proposed that the provision of water and sewerage services in Northern Ireland will be the responsibility of a Government owned company with an annual budget of around £350m and a 20 year investment programme of around £3bn.

It is proposed that the Authority’s primary duties with respect to water and sewerage will be in line with the role currently discharged by the Director General of Water Services in England and Wales. The new Chief Executive will be responsible for managing the transition of the Authority to include the regulation of the water and sewerage industries, in consultation with our Department for Regional Development colleagues.

In addition to its future responsibilities in relation to water, the Authority will be responsible for the joint regulation of the All-Island Single Electricity Market and the oversight of other joint All-Island Energy Market Electricity and Gas initiatives, working in collaboration with the Commission for Energy Regulation the energy regulator in the Republic of Ireland. Final arrangements for the working of the All-Island market have yet to be agreed and will be subject to policy agreements between the lead departments in Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the enactment of enabling legislation.

Further information:
Conall McDevitt, Weber Shandwick Tel: 028 90764911, 07770 886933
Terry McErlane, Weber Shandwick Tel: 028 90764924, 07770 886911