PHOENIX Natural Gas is breaking new ground this year by extending the natural gas pipeline to 13 towns in Co Down, bringing the benefits of natural gas to an additional 28,000 homes and businesses.
The £60 million private investment by the company will see 350km of network constructed over the next few years in the towns of Annahilt, Ballygowan, Ballynahinch, Castlewellan, Crossgar, Downpatrick, Dromore, Drumaness, Dundrum, Hillsborough, Newcastle, Saintfield and Spa.
Since being granted a licence extension by the Utility Regulator in 2015, Phoenix Natural Gas has been busy working to expand its network, with Ballygowan recently becoming the first town to go live with new customers connecting to the natural gas network in December last year.
The company is currently working in Hillsborough and Ballynahinch town centres, with earliest connections planned later this year.
In addition, Phoenix Natural Gas is currently constructing pipeline in Annahilt and the Spa towards Downpatrick in 2017.
Geri Wright, the company's communications manager, said: "Phoenix Natural Gas has served its licence area of Greater Belfast for over 20 years and has established natural gas as the fuel of choice during this time.
"By the end of 2016, we reached a milestone 200,000 customers, with natural gas available to 320,000 properties in the original license area.
"The expansion of the network in Co Down allows us to bring the benefits of natural gas to new areas – improving local utility infrastructure and offering home and business owners greater fuel choice."
Having invested £500m in laying some 3,500km of pipework to date, Phoenix Natural Gas is the largest natural gas distribution and gas services business in the north.
"From a communications perspective, it's about opening up a dialogue with new audiences throughout the construction phase, to ensure we deliver a practical and efficient programme of works with minimal disruption to local residents," Geri added.
"The expansion presents both an opportunity and a challenge for us as we work to build the Phoenix Natural Gas brand in these areas and educate new audiences on the many benefits of natural gas, including its environmental credentials."
In addition to instant and constant heat, with no chance of "running out", switching to natural gas removes 270,000 tonnes of Co2 from the atmosphere annually – the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road each year.
It's something of which the company is extremely proud and is part of an overarching environmental focus.
"It it's part of our corporate responsibility programme, known as LIFE - Leadership in the marketplace, Investing in our people, Fostering our community and Environmental responsibility," Geri explained.
"The Phoenix LIFE programme exists to enable the company to positively impact the marketplace, workplace, environment and community, in line with main business objectives."
Phoenix Natural Gas has also set up the Energy for Children Charitable Trust to provide financial support to groups and individuals that may slip through the net of the wider charity network.
Since its formation in 2005, the trust has helped over 6,000 local children and every month continues to help those who need it most.
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