Northern Ireland

Stormont manufacturing energy costs advisory panel appointed

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Stormont Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has appointed an advisory group to make recommendations about tackling energy costs in the manufacturing sector.

Last month, tyre manufacturer Michelin cited high electricity prices as one reason for closing its Ballymena plant in 2018, with the loss of 860 jobs.

The group will be chaired by Dale Farm chief executive David Dobbin.

It will report back to the minister by 1 March.

Benchmark

Other members of the group include Carla Tully from generating company AES, Jackie Pollock from the Unite union and Mark Nodder from Wrightbus.

Its terms of reference are to review the evidence about what effect energy costs have on the competitiveness of manufacturers.

It will then identify policies, strategies and examples of industry good practice in how to reduce energy costs.

Mr Dobbin said there will be restrictions, "whether it's state aid rules or European guidelines", that the group would have to adhere to in its recommendations.

He added that the aim should be to get energy costs as close as possible to the average EU benchmark.

"I don't think we're going to have the lowest costs in Europe because of our peripherality and the size of our market," he said.

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