Following a review by the Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation and its Republic of Ireland counterpart, the Commission for Energy Regulation, of the progress of the project to deliver the Single Electricity Market (SEM) ministers endorsed the regulator’s recommendation to extend the “go-live” date.

The move followed consultation with the Transmission System Operators and the industry and will enable testing from June to November 2007.

Irish secretary Peter Hain said: “This is a groundbreaking arrangement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that will create a single wholesale electricity market across two jurisdictions. We need to give the regulators, the transmission system operators and industry time to finalise the design and implement the market.

Both governments plan to deliver the necessary legislation before July 2007 with the SEM the key short-term priority and work also underway on developing the all-island gas market over time. Cross-border wholesale electricity trading is expected to reduce costs and deliver a more flexible power market.