Energy action in 2023: Renewable support scheme design

The shape of a future renewable electricity support scheme will be revealed later in 2023, the Department for the Economy has indicated.

Announced as part of the Department’s Energy Action Plan for 2023, the final design of renewable electricity support is expected to be published this year, alongside a pathway and timeline for the support being in place.

No firm timeframe has been attached to the scheme’s implementation, however, as the action plan indicates the delivery of actions will be subject to resources being made available. The continued absence of the Northern Ireland Executive and “very challenging current budgetary pressures” are likely to delay implementation.

The support scheme is one of several actions for 2023 outlined in the second iteration of the Energy Action Plan, that align with the Department’s Energy Strategy – Path to Net Zero Energy published in December 2021.

Also included in the action plan is a pledge to commence implementation of a strategy to identify skills needed from the education and training sectors to decarbonise energy.


The provision of an energy skills audit had been a well-received component of the 2022 action plan. While it was not completed in 2022, the Department for the Economy emphasises that it remains a priority and has signalled April 2023 as a new date for delivery.

In relation to the consultation on Policy Options for the Energy One Stop Shop Implementation Plan, opened in October 2022. The new action plan indicates delivery of an advice service, subject to funding, and a multi-year implementation plan for the services reflecting the outcome of the consultation.

In relation to fuel poverty, the Department for Communities failed to implement the 2022 pledge to establish a cross-departmental steering group which would develop and deliver actions to reduce fuel poverty. Rather, the Department has indicated that it “commenced work on developing a long-term Fuel Poverty Strategy and Action Plan”. The 2023 action plan pledges to complete the first phase of consultation and engagement on a new Fuel Poverty Strategy, but offers no timeframe for the strategy’s publication.

Energy efficiency

The Department for the Economy has rolled back on its initial plan to launch a domestic energy efficiency scheme in 2022, stating that delivery of a pilot domestic efficiency scheme “would not be feasible”. A move to instead focus on the development of a multi-year energy efficiency intervention programme to deliver retrofits is reflected in a new commitment to issue a statement of intent and launch a cross-departmental consultation on energy efficiency in 2023.

Likewise, a non-domestic energy efficiency scheme was not launched in 2022, as indicated. However, the Department has said that in 2023 it will, along with Invest NI, deliver a programme incorporating tailored information, advice, and technical consultancy to support energy efficiency and decarbonisation, along with financial support open to eligible businesses.

Renewable energy

In relation to the replacement of fossil fuels, alongside the design launch of a new renewable support scheme the Department plans to issue a consultation on a low carbon heat support scheme in 2023.

Following on from the establishment by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) of the Inter-Departmental Biomethane Working Group (IDBG) to progress the delivery of sustainable biomethane production in Northern Ireland, the action plan contains an objective of issuing a call for evidence on the options for supporting biomethane production in Northern Ireland.

Additionally, in 2023, the Department for Infrastructure will lead a consultation on the draft regional strategic planning policy for renewable and low carbon energy. The Department says that responses to the consultation will be considered with a view to making any legislative change in relation to heat pumps as early as possible in 2023.

Interestingly, despite some progress on the 2022 pledge to develop an action plan to deliver 1GW of offshore wind from 2030, with a Statement of Intent with the Crown Estate (TCE), towards offshore wind seabed leasing for Northern Ireland published on 16 January 2023, the 2023 action plan has no direct actions towards offshore wind.

Equally, the 2023 action plan makes no mention of hydrogen.

Finally, on delivering a flexible, resilient, and integrated energy system, the Department says that following the completion of a cost benefit analysis in 2022, which concluded that the installation of smart meters for all electricity supply points was a necessity, the existing pilot will be built upon a plan for electricity smart metering in Northern Ireland to be published early in 2023.

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