Renewables Decision Bad, says UFU

Wednesday, 30 September, 2015

The Ulster Farmers Union has criticised a decision by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) to launch a two week consultation on the early closure of the Northern Ireland Renewable Obligation (NIRO) for onshore wind generation.  

In June the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said it was closing its Renewables Obligation support for onshore wind generation.  In response the local DETI minister, Jonathan Bell, said he did not intend to follow the Westminster government’s policy with an early closure of the scheme here. “This was welcomed by the UFU, but now the plan is to close the NIRO scheme in March 2016.  This is a year earlier than planned, and to give only two weeks of consultation is inadequate in light of the implications for the small scale renewables sector in Northern Ireland,” said UFU rural enterprise chairman Gary Hawkes.

The early closure decision was made because to continue the NIRO until March 2017, would have meant an additional cost to consumers.  “However if you separate small scale (less than 250 kW) from large scale, an already small cost to consumers becomes miniscule.  This is why the UFU wants small scale wind generation to be separated,” said Mr Hawkes.

Ever since the NIRO was launched, the small scale wind sector has been reset by grid connection problems.  “NIE Project 40 will not be available until spring 2016 at the earliest. Our members who have already committed funds to a wind turbine may only be connected to the grid then. This early closure will make that too late, leaving many out of pocket,” stressed Mr Hawkes.

The UFU will lobby DECC in London to extend the consultation period and allow small scale wind to continue to avail of the NIRO until March 2017.  “The early closure will put at risk the use of small scale turbines located on day to day farming business.  These are farms that would use wind energy to not only reduce energy costs, but to boost energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions,” he said.