The Minister was speaking following the latest Executive meeting, at which it was agreed to publish the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment’s (DETI’s) consultation on a Strategic Energy Framework for Northern Ireland 2009.
Announcing the consultation, Arlene Foster said: “I have made it clear for some time now that as long as fossil fuels continue to dominate local power production, Northern Ireland will suffer from the volatility of worldwide shifts in the cost of oil, gas and coal.
“It is therefore vital that Government encourages increased levels of renewable power generation and provision of the associated new infrastructure which is necessary to improve security and diversity of our energy supply.”
The Minister continued: “Our aim is to achieve a competitive, sustainable long-term future for energy in Northern Ireland. The Executive is already working hard to ensure access to secure, competitively priced and sustainable energy supplies, whilst supporting economic growth and recognising the need to address fuel poverty. This is a challenging agenda, particularly given the global economic downturn and its impact on Northern Ireland industry and consumers.”
Arlene Foster said: “The draft Strategic Energy Framework 2009 sets out the proposed priorities for Northern Ireland’s energy future over the next ten years and outlines the key energy goals in terms of competitiveness, security of supply, sustainability and infrastructure.
“The draft Framework also proposes new and ambitious renewable energy targets, including 40% renewable electricity by 2020. These proposed targets reflect the need for effective action against climate change and the need to address other policy goals in terms of security and sustainability of supply and costs.”
The Minister added: “However, there is no silver bullet solution. We face many challenges in balancing competing environmental and cost issues, in order to create a sustainable energy infrastructure that will support economic growth and provide for reliable and competitive energy markets for Northern Ireland.”
Concluding, the Minister said: “I want to ensure that these proposals are appropriate for Northern Ireland and would encourage all stakeholders to contribute to the development of our future energy policy. These are challenging times and important choices must be made. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to build a sustainable energy future for all in Northern Ireland.”