That was the message from Economy Minister Nigel Dodds as he addressed over 150 members and guests of the Northern Ireland Energy Institute at its Annual Dinner in Belfast last night. Emphasising the challenges ahead, the Minister said: “Over the next three years, I will be working to reduce Northern Ireland’s carbon footprint and to improve the sustainability of Northern Ireland’s energy market by harnessing renewable energy resources. Developing more competitive regional electricity and gas markets is a further objective as this will improve business competitiveness and contribute to measures aimed at tackling fuel poverty.”
The Minister focussed on a number of key energy developments, the most significant of which has been the creation of the Single Electricity Market (SEM), launched last November. The Minister said: “The SEM is a ground breaking project and part of the wider EU drive towards regional electricity markets. The SEM is the first market of its kind in Europe.”
Referring to the Grid Study published last month, the Minister said: “The Grid Study showed that up to harnessing up to 42% of power from renewable energy is feasible, and that wind is the cheapest and most readily available source. This level of renewable generation could result in around 25% less CO2 emissions than the current generation mix.
“This innovative Study sets out the benefits that could be achieved by 2020 and is at the leading edge of international technological research.”
The recent review of the Sustainable Energy Market in Northern Ireland identified new options and a number of recommendations that cut across several Government Departments. It also showed that Northern Ireland compares well to the other regions of Europe that were used as comparator for the study.
The Minister said: “I am glad to acknowledge that many of Northern Ireland’s existing programmes and delivery mechanisms will play a vital role in contributing to the overall UK energy savings target.”
The proposed EU Directive on Renewable Energy sets targets for the proportion of energy from renewable sources by 2020. The Minister said: “There will be great opportunities in new and innovative renewable energy technologies, in the supply chain for established renewable technologies, and for those who can provide easy-to-use solutions quickly to the market.”
Referring to the Energy Services Directive which takes effect in May, the Minister added: “In addition to the opportunities that renewables offer we should not lose sight of the fact that if we do more on energy efficiency, then it will make it easier for us to meet our renewable energy targets – and make it cheaper as well. It will be much better to act now to avoid climate change than to try and live with its effects later.”
The dinner was hosted by Dr Patrick Waterfield, current Chair of the Northern Ireland Branch of the Energy Institute. Praising the contribution of the Institute, the Minister said: “I have been hugely impressed by the ability and professionalism of the many people who have offered valuable advice and support to help address the energy challenges that face us in Northern Ireland.”