ICI plan upsets other power customers

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The Independent Online
A ROW is erupting over government hopes to secure cheaper electricity for ICI's chlor-alkali plant at Runcorn, Cheshire, which accounts for 1 per cent of the electricity consumed in the UK, writes Mary Fagan.

Moves within the Department of Trade and Industry to negotiate a special deal for ICI have prompted other large electricity customers to call for fair play. ICI has said that 7,000 jobs are at risk because its bills have risen by 60 per cent since the electricity industry was privatised.

It is understood that the DTI and the watchdog Offer will introduce changes so that ICI's Runcorn plant can buy direct from PowerGen. This would allow ICI to bypass extra costs associated with the usual buying through the central electricity trading pool. One industry source suggested it could reduce the Runcorn power bill by 15 per cent.

However, a spokesman for PowerGen denied that a supply deal had been done. 'If the Government wants to support ICI that is up to the Government,' he said.

Peter Rost, chairman of the Major Energy Users Council, said large companies wanted a 'general shopping-around' for power rather than going through the pool. 'If ICI can have a special deal, why not others?' he asked.

It is believed there are changes under way to allow PowerGen to supply the Runcorn plant direct from its Ince station - about 10 miles away - which avoids some charges connected with the national electricity trading system.