“As a heavily regulated sector, the legislative framework around energy and utilities tends to be very complex and requires a high level of specialism. With the sector continuing to develop at a rapid rate, we need to ensure that the knowledge and expertise of our team is totally up to date,” says Mark Thompson, Head of Energy and Natural Resources at corporate law firm A&L Goodbody.
“Two or three years ago our energy team was much smaller but, given the level of activity in the sector, it has expanded to seven lawyers from different legal disciplines: all of whom are energy sector specialists in their own right, aware of the particular aspects of their core specialism within the sector.”
With over 50 years’ experience in the energy and utilities sector collectively, A&L Goodbody’s energy team advises across a broad spectrum of key areas, including corporate, regulatory, environmental and planning, property, and banking and finance law.
According to Thompson, their breadth of offering in energy and natural resources is unique amongst firms in Northern Ireland: “Few corporate law firms will have large, dedicated teams of sectoral specialists lawyers based in Belfast,” he comments. “Many may have specialists in particular areas of our practice or who perhaps touch on energy law, but certainly not to the extent of being able to provide a full local service as we do with the team here.
“We’re acting in an all-island market, with two jurisdictions that are interacting day in, day out and I think we add strength to our offering because we’re an all-island law firm, with a dedicated energy team in our Dublin office as well. Both teams work together regularly on an all-island basis for our clients. The fact that we can offer a multi-jurisdictional service from sectoral specialists across our range of legal specialisms gives us a leading edge in the market and is greatly valued by our clients.”
The team at A&L Goodbody has advised on some of the most complex transactions in Northern Ireland’s energy and utilities sector. “We have advised many of the leading organisations in the sector over recent years including EirGrid plc, Scottish and Southern Electricity, Bord Gáis, Firmus Energy, Northern Ireland Water and Mutual Energy,” explains David Flinn – an energy and regulation specialist who, prior to coming to A&L Goodbody, advised the utility regulator as a consultant and spent over 25 years at Viridian, latterly as Group Solicitor.
“The banking and finance side of the sector remains particularly busy,” notes banking partner Ciaran McAlinney. “We have acted this year for Barclays on the major refinancing of AES Kilroot and, on the commercial and regulatory side, are advising firmus energy on gas market opening.”
Property specialist Kevin Murphy notes, meanwhile, that the team is also advising on more and more renewable energy projects: “As well as providing ongoing advice on wind farm portfolios on behalf of Gaelectric, SWS and such like, we are also being instructed on newer technologies: anaerobic digestion plants, tidal projects and again, for Gaelectric, we have advised on its compressed air energy storage (CAES) project in Larne.
“We are proud of the work our team has been undertaking including our Dublin colleagues who advised on the first operational offshore wind project at Arklow Banks and also on the East-West Interconnector earlier this year.”
Looking ahead to 2013, Thompson concludes: “It’s an exciting time to be working in the sector and the dedicated team here at A&L Goodbody is well equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead for anyone operating in the sector, whether generator, distributor or supplier.”