It’s an exciting time to be a policy anorak. After the Assembly Election, we’re going to see a new lineup of government departments and a new programme for government. And beyond this there’s the small matter of the Brexit referendum.
But we need not await landmark political events for policy change to take place. Some big issues for business organisations are under the spotlight at the moment.
At the start of the year we looked into the NI Department of Finance’s Review of Business Rates. And then, earlier this week, we ran an event looking into the local energy retail market (you might have heard one of our speakers, Budget Energy’s Eleanor McEvoy, on Good Morning Ulster).
The Utility Regulator’s review of Competition in NI Energy Supply Markets is a complex subject, but one that has a major impact on Northern Ireland. 42% of our population is classed as being in Fuel Poverty (the worst rate in the UK), while many NI businesses feel that energy costs are stifling growth.
The three main points coming out of our event were:
- NI’s energy market is not so large or resilient as it might seem
- Consumers who don’t engage with the market stand to lose out
- Without significant investment in infrastructure (north-south interconnector, energy storage etc), consumers won’t see radical changes to their bills.
The seminar was well timed – NI’s media corps had recently picked up that there was an issue around how to regulate energy in future, as the largest suppliers lose their market dominance.We heard great talks, and a lively debate, all moderated by UTV’s Jamie Delargy.
Perhaps the most interesting points were raised by Adam Cooper, from the GB regulator Ofgem. Adam talked about major changes coming down the line in GB, and called for a technological revolution in the way we buy energy – asking “anyone for Uber Energy, or Google Gas?”
The next topic under the Chambré microscope is NI’s planning system, at our conference on March 24. We’re anticipating a great turnout and, as ever with our events, a fascinating conversation. Hope to see you there!
I’d like to thank our sponsors Cleaver Fulton Rankin Solicitors and the Federation of Small Businesses for helping to make the event possible. To find out more about our upcoming programme of events, please contact my colleague Jack Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org