Industry experts call for greater accountability in energy market

Key research is presented as Arthur Cox hosts EAI briefing seminar

The urgent need to address the issue of regulatory accountability within the overall governance framework of the all-Ireland energy market was today highlighted by industry experts at an EAI briefing hosted by Arthur Cox.

The leading law firm partnered with the representative body for the electricity sector on the island of Ireland to welcome Dr Tanya Harrington, public policy and regulatory affairs consultant, to its Belfast city centre offices to present the research from her doctoral thesis on the subject.

Entitled ‘Accountability and Regulatory Governance in a Cross-Jurisdictional Market: A Case Study of the All-Island Energy Market (Ireland)’, the work examines the related issues of institutional design, persistence and change and regulatory accountability.

The paper has a specific focus on accountability within the existing governance framework of the Single Electricity Market (SEM), the wholesale electricity market operating in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Dr Harrington , who has 18 years’ experience representing business and working inside Government, said:

“While a lot of literature has been produced on the technical design and economic underpinning of the SEM Committee, there has been very little on the governance framework and specifically the issue of regulatory accountability, which is the focus of this research.”

“After mapping and assessing regulatory accountability, the research considers how the issue of accountability should be addressed in terms of institutional design for regulatory governance in a multi-level governance context.

“There has been a transformation in how government is organised and in what it does in recent years. This trend is confirmed across jurisdictions and sectors. But systems of public accountability have not developed or kept pace with this transformation.”

The thesis research draws on a number of sources, including a systematic analysis of the academic literature, policy and regulatory publications, parliamentary debates and media reports, and is supplemented by the findings from 22 interviews with key decision-makers, from a number of jurisdictions.

Catriona Gibson, Managing Partner at Arthur Cox, said:

“As a leading law firm with a dedicated energy and resources practice, Arthur Cox regularly provides counsel to clients in this sector.

“The need for more effective governance and accountability of the regulatory body has been made clear, not just for the economic performance of the industry, but also for the economic and social development of the two jurisdictions.

“The event provided the ideal platform for key industry stakeholders to exchange views, and we would like to thank Dr Harrington and the EAI for their contributions. We look forward to seeing the research findings when they are published.”

John Newman, Director of Trading and Regulation at Energia and Chair of EAI, also spoke at the briefing to deliver a response on behalf of EAI to Dr Harrington’s presentation.

Mr Newman said:

“The deficit in accountability of the SEM Committee is an issue which needs to be urgently addressed and this research carried out by Dr Harrington provides the ideal reference point.

“We want a market which provides efficient outcomes; one in which customers, generators and suppliers can have confidence. This can’t be achieved without an effective mechanism for challenging regulatory decisions. It makes sense for the SEM Committee to be made more accountable because inappropriate regulatory decisions lead to an inefficient market, which ultimately leads to increased costs to the consumer.”

Photograph (L-R): EAI Chair John Newman, Dr Tanya Harrington, Arthur Cox's Catriona Gibson and EAI CEO Owen Wilson.

Arthur Cox is an associate member of EAI and a leading law firm with offices in Belfast and Dublin and a dedicated energy and resources practice.