Page last updated at 05:57 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 06:57 UK

Pensioner's 67,000 power bill

By Freya McClements
BBC News

John McCarter on living without electricity and the 67,000 connection charge

A County Londonderry pensioner who has lived without electricity for 27 years has been told Northern Ireland Electricity will charge him £67,000 to link his home to the grid.

John McCarter, 74, has no central heating at his Downhill home and uses bottled gas and candles for light.

The company said the high cost was due to cables having to go underground in an area of special scientific interest.

Mr McCarter said his bones were "starting to feel the cold now".

"When I wake in the morning, if it's a good morning the thermometer on the wall will read two degrees," he said.

"If it's a bad morning, it'll be below zero."

His house on Seacoast Road is one of several properties which have been without electricity since they were built.

He said he stayed in the house because he likes the cliffs and the beach, but three years ago he decided he would make it more comfortable.

"In 2006, I thought I'd see about getting electricity.

"It was quite a job - I had to draw up plans of the house myself, and send all the information to Northern Ireland Electricity.

"They then came back to me and said it would cost £67,000.

John McCarter tells BBC reporter Ben Geoghegan how he has lived without electric

"I'm on just over £100 a week with my pension, and I have to keep coal in two fires and feed myself, so there isn't much left over."

But despite this setback, Mr McCarter said he has not given up hope that he will finally have electricity in his home.

"This is along the main A2 road - it's not as if I'm living in the sticks," he said.

"In this day and age, it's just not acceptable."

A spokesperson for NIE said the company's current charging policy was reviewed and agreed annually by the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation to ensure the most equitable arrangement for all their customers.

"In this instance Mr McCarter lives near an Area of Special Scientific Interest and NIE is restricted in the type of network which can be built.

"We would have to lay an underground cable to provide a connection and these are the costs associated with this length of undergrounding."

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