EnergyEnergy report

Market support a milestone opportunity

RenewableNI, the voice of the renewable electricity industry, is poised for growth in the sector following the announcement of plans for a new renewable electricity support scheme.

The organisation has doubled in size in under three years and has introduced new membership levels to reflect the diversity of companies represented. Director, Steven Agnew, says: “We are delighted that many of our current members took the decision to upgrade to the new gold or silver tiers. This shows confidence in the value and engagement that RenewableNI has brought.

“Since the Executive returned, we have addressed the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Economy Committee and will be addressing the Infrastructure Committee and meeting the new economy and infrastructure ministers in May 2024.”

RenewableNI’s close engagement was highlighted in April with two sold out renewable energy seminars. The first with the chief planner and director of Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and the second with the Department for the Economy’s (DfE) renewable electricity team on the new renewable support scheme.

The always popular series set new records for the organisation booking up in under two hours. Representatives from SONI, Utility Regulator and NIE Networks joined DFE, DfI and Department of Finance, along with those from industry.

Agnew continues: “The new support scheme is a milestone for the sector. When surveyed, 82 per cent of renewables developers said Northern Ireland is an unattractive place to develop. A lack of market support is the number one reason given, followed by uncertain planning timelines and limited grid capacity.

“Every new wind turbine and every new solar panel connected to the grid will reduce consumer bills and lower our carbon emissions.

“As an organisation we have been advocating for an accelerating renewables taskforce to bring everyone together to ensure reform happens at the pace necessary.”

A valuable part of RenewableNI’s work has been the production of popular reports that are independently produced. The organisation also produces an annual pipeline survey in consultation with their members. This data has been shared with government departments, SONI and NIE Networks to help plan for future investment.

Northern Ireland has gone from renewable electricity leaders to laggers. In 2022, over half the electricity used was from renewable sources. In March 2023, as Great Britain and Republic of Ireland celebrated new records of renewable generation, Northern Ireland dropped by over 5 per cent.

Agnew explains: “Our current generation is from the success of 2010s when we last had a renewable electricity support scheme. Over 400MW of renewable electricity was connected in 2017 when the NIRO scheme closed to new generators. It came in under budget and overachieved; Northern Ireland was envied globally. Support stopped and new projects stopped – only 86MW of new large-scale generation has been connected this decade.

“The industry is ready to address the climate emergency. We need Executive Ministers to become champions of renewables and remove the hurdles to achieving a better future for Northern Ireland’s citizens.”

Contact Steven Agnew
T: 078 3729 1699

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