From its inception in 2005, local natural gas provider, firmus energy, has come a long way. The company started with justfour employees, no customers and the momentous task of building an underground pipe network to allow thousands of homes and businesses outside of Belfast to connect to and enjoy the benefits of natural gas for the first time. In just seven years they have achieved this major engineering feat, laying more than 750km of pipe and even in the midst of a recession, its development is now more rapid than ever.
The company is still recruiting and currently has around 90 employees based at its Antrim headquarters. Since winning the licence in 2005 to bring natural gas to 10 towns and cities across Northern Ireland, including Derry~Londonderry, firmus energy has applied to the Utility Regulator on several occasions to extend their network even further and now supplies natural gas to more than 20 towns and cities, including most recently Portstewart, Warrenpoint and Ballyclare.
General Manager, Michael Scott, joined firmus energy in 2006 as business development manager and last year took up the top position when former managing director, Mark Prentice moved to parent company Bord Gais. Michael is focused on further development of the network and bringing the cost, efficiency and environmental benefits to even more homes and businesses across the province. Michael explains, “To date, we have invested more than £70 million in the natural gas infrastructure in Northern Ireland and we continue to look for new opportunities to grow our network, which is very important for the future generations of Northern Ireland.
“Compared to the rest of the UK and Europe, the local natural gas network is in its infancy. Customers in GB have been enjoying the benefits of natural gas since 1966, 30 years before it was introduced to Belfast and 40 years before we were awarded the licence to bring natural gas within the firmus network area (outside Belfast); so we are working very hard to ensure as many people in Northern Ireland as possible can benefit from a cheaper, more efficient and practical fuel choice.”
At a local level, firmus energy has more than 5350 customers in Derry~Londonderry, including a number of key businesses such as Seagate, Foyle meats and the City Hotel. firmus energy has laid around 160Km of pipe in the area, bringing the firm’s investment in Derry~Londonderry to £15 million.
As well as supplying natural gas to customers in its network area, firmus energy also competes in the natural gas supply market in greater Belfast. In total the company now supplies more than 48,000 homes and businesses across Northern Ireland with natural gas.
Michael continues, “Although we are a relatively young company, we have a very experienced team and we leverage off the trading arrangements secured through our parent company, BGE. In fact, according to the Utility Regulator’s August 2012 report, our customers are enjoying the cheapest natural gas in the UK.
“Price is always important for our customers as it directly impacts on the company’s bottom line. The efficiency of natural gas and the more competitive pricing compared to other fuels, means that businesses can make substantial savings by switching to natural gas. This can allow a business to operate more efficiently, making them more competitive and allowing them to ultimately secure jobs.
Michael is also keen to emphasise the significant environmental benefits of natural gas. He continues, “By displacing oil, natural gas from firmus energy has reduced CO2 emissions by more than 300,000 tonnes helping businesses and homes to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.”
Michael concluded, “We have ambitious plans for firmus energy over the next few years. As well as our commitment to continue to develop and extend our natural gas network, our parent company is also investigating alternative energy sources, including tidal and wind power opportunities in Northern Ireland. Our main focus however, is to ensure that we continue to provide natural gas at the lowest possible cost whilst still giving the high level of service our customers deserve.”
To find out more about firmus energy or connecting to natural gas, please visit www.firmusenergy.co.uk or call the customer careline on 08456 08 00 88.
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