Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale says she is concerned over the excessive delays for new and existing businesses in getting connected to the electricity grid.
“It is hugely unacceptable that local business are waiting up to 24 months to get connected to the grid,” said Mrs Hale.
“This unnecessary delay is putting many businesses to the sword and driving out investment from those looking to finance and support green energy projects.
“I have been working with a number of businesses across Lagan Valley and it is astonishing just how many companies are experiencing massive delays. Some companies are now beginning to consider pulling the plug and taking their business elsewhere.
“If time scales for NIE connections are not greatly reduced then Northern Ireland will continue to suffer from lost investments.
Local farmer and businessman, Mr Alistair Dickson commented: “NIE have left me and many others with no other option but to wait and continue to pay vast amounts of interest on our investments because of the length of time NIE are taking to connect businesses to the grid.”
Mrs. Hale added, “Many businesses are waiting up to 24 months from they have submitted their deposit and funds when other providers across Europe can fulfil the same service within 3-4 months.”
The Lagan Valley MLA said that she would be continuing to lobby and meet the new Minister for Trade and Enterprise to push NIE on ensuring that unreasonable delays are kept to a minimum and that a long term solution can be sought.
A spokesperson for the NIE said: “In recent years the number of applications for renewable generation connections has increased exponentially, resulting in a number of challenges for Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE), the network company responsible for connecting customers and generators to the grid.
“In relation to timeframes for delivery of large renewable connections, there are usually several stages to these projects which can in some cases take considerable time to complete.
“Some of these activities are undoubtedly within NIE’s control, and whilst efforts have been made to expedite these, some other activities are hugely dependent on agreements with third parties which are generally outside NIE’s control.
“The activities, which require third party consents include securing wayleaves with landowners for new or modified equipment, securing planning permission for new lines as well as other necessary legalities and leases. NIE continues to review resourcing requirements to improve infrastructure delivery, against a growing number of projects in the delivery pipeline.
“NIE will continue to liaise with applicants to ensure that realistic expectations are established with developers seeking connection to the network and to ensure that any delays are notified to developers.
“This should ensure that project completion and grid availability are better aligned and help keep interest payments on investments to a minimum. NIE is not aware of any other similar infrastructure services being delivered within 3-4 months, either across the UK or in Europe.”