Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has voiced serious concerns over the worsening energy crisis in Northern Ireland and beyond.
Mr Dickson said recent price hikes would pose huge financial challenges for many.
“In this year alone, both of Northern Ireland’s gas providers, and all six electricity providers, have increased their prices. Since January, gas prices have risen 250 per cent, whilst from August alone, prices have risen by 70 per cent.
“These price hikes will pose huge financial challenges for many, whilst also putting enormous strain on businesses. Industries such as steel, glass, ceramics and paper, have been particularly affected, with many factories literally on the brink. My fear is if they close, they will never reopen.
“That will obviously have a devastating impact on the workers and local communities in and around the factories, but it is vital to remember these industries are a crucial cog in a much larger wheel. If they fail, there will be inevitable knock-on effects for the infrastructure and construction sectors, and the reverberations for wider society will continue on from there.
“The UK is one of the most gas-dependent countries in Europe, with four out of every five houses still gas-heated. The government cannot continue to ignore the problem, but must instead look at developing a cross-cutting and ambitious insulation scheme.
“Greenpeace has reported the UK has the least energy efficient housing stock in Western Europe, yet the government is still dragging its heels in developing a comprehensive programme to insulate the millions of homes in desperate need of retrofitting. The wasted energy from poor insulation is almost as criminal as the government’s unwillingness to do anything about it.
“In addition to better insulation, we should also be looking at alternative fuel sources, and asking questions on why we are holding back on offshore energy solutions? To take electricity as an example – almost half of the electricity used in the UK is produced by burning gas. Surely in 2021 there are greener solutions?”