Rural Enterprise

Renewable electricity target requires urgent reform, says UFU

UFU Deputy President William Irvine on his County Armagh farm. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says Northern Ireland (NI) will struggle to meet its renewable electricity 2030 target without significant reform, as outlined in the Renewable NI/KPMG report, ‘Accelerating Renewables in NI’.

UFU deputy president William Irvine said, “At the recent NI Energy Summit, Dr Jayne Brady Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, stated that to fully embrace green energy, NI needs to step up and do better. While we welcomed this acknowledgement, it highlighted our frustrations at the lack of government policy co-ordination which is critical to realising our full potential as providers of renewable energy solutions. Especially as we are working to meet the challenging targets in the Climate Change Act.

“NI farmers are part of the climate change solution and we need supportive renewable polices in place to enable us to utilise our potential in this specific area, but it has yet to happen. The revised ammonia protocol proposed in the DAERA Call for Evidence, is a huge worry for renewable development here as it is likely to make it almost impossible for new AD plants in NI to get planning permission or obtain the relevant licenses.”

The UFU’s frustrations have been exacerbated further following the recent news that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has eased an effective ban on new onshore wind farms in England. The changes involve broadening the ways in which sites can be identified and will facilitate a much quicker planning process.

“If you compare the renewable energy situation to that in Britain, our planning policy remains disjointed and unsupportive. However, it’s the lack of financial support that stands out the most.

“Following the DfE consultation on design considerations for a renewable electricity support scheme for NI, the preferred option seems to be ‘contracts for difference’, but this would by-pass our members wishing to get involved in renewables.

“In the Republic of Ireland (ROI), they’re pushing ahead with their small-scale renewable electricity support scheme. In NI we have had no support in place since 2017. According to the KPMG report, over the past 12 months NI has added only c.30MW of new renewable energy capacity to the system. ROI has managed to connect more than 20 times this volume over the same 12-month period, connecting 688MW in 2022 alone.

“NI has the best wind conditions in NW Europe, yet the land sector is being dismissed. We are missing massive opportunities that are right under our nose and this is preventing us from realising our sustainability aspirations. A NI renewable electricity support scheme is vital to reinvigorate the market and reverse renewable development decline. It must be addressed urgently.”