That was the message from the Energy Minister, Arlene Foster when she addressed delegates at the seventh annual Northern Ireland Energy Conference, in Belfast today.
Arlene Foster said: “Global agreement will only work if action is taken at the local level. Climate change brings dangers but it also brings opportunities. If Northern Ireland is to prosper we will need to grasp those opportunities.”
The Minister said a 40% renewable electricity target, set out in the Strategic Energy Framework, had been received positively during the consultation process.
She added: “The cost of inaction on renewables now would lock us into potentially even higher costs over the long term. The era of low energy prices is over. It is likely that the costs of conventional energy generation will continue to rise.”
The Minister continued: “The Northern Ireland Executive will continue to encourage the use of renewable power, and work to bring the improvements in infrastructure needed to enhance security and diversity of energy supply and to support economic activity.
“The draft Strategic Energy Framework set out a challenging agenda and, working with all the stakeholders I believe we can make a start in putting Northern Ireland on a path to a secure and sustainable energy future.”
The Minister went on to comment on the Utility Regulator’s inquiry in response to business community concerns on electricity bills.
She said: “I am acutely aware of the difficulties being experienced by large energy users as they are having to deal with significant increases in electricity costs. I look forward to the conclusion of the Utility Regulator’s inquiry and how it may provide some further insight into the communication and hedging strategies undertaken .”