Committee for the Economy: Energy Strategy Report

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:00 pm on 23rd November 2020.

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Photo of Paul Frew Paul Frew DUP 4:00 pm, 23rd November 2020

I welcome the micro report and thank the Committee for its work. Energy will always be a massive piece of the economy portfolio. I also pay tribute to the Minister, who has met me on the issue.

Let us face it: energy is a massive issue for any devolved jurisdiction, simply because we all pay for it. The problem that we have in Northern Ireland is that our heavy industrial users pay more for energy because of the network charges and everything that goes with them. That has been a massive problem over the years and has led to job losses not only in my constituency but across Northern Ireland. Energy costs have been ranked in the top five reasons that businesses have left these shores. They are therefore a massive issue, and I thank the Committee for keeping it on the boil.

I must speak about my constituency and Wrightbus's work with hydrogen. There are massive energy issues, but carbon is not necessarily the issue, as a good bit of that has been resolved through the use of renewable energy. Where the use of carbon has to be fought is in the areas of transport and heat. By bringing in hydrogen and producing hydrogen buses, two birds can be killed with one stone. Growth can be created in the transport sector that reduces carbon, but wind is also being utilised, and that cannot currently be done, as it cannot be put into the grid because of the inertia issue. We can produce as much wind as we like, but, unless there is a system to back it up and the inertia to keep the energy stable, it cannot be used. There are many ways to do that. Battery storage can be used to contain the energy produced, or that energy can be converted into hydrogen. That hydrogen can then be put into our bus stock and heavy goods vehicles, I suggest. I suspect that batteries are the way to go for small cars, but hydrogen is most definitely the way to go for buses and heavy goods vehicles.

There are times in the energy sector that you stay still and watch and monitor what happens across the world. With hydrogen, I suggest to the Committee and the Minister that now is not one of those times to stop and look. We should go for it, as we have the tools and wherewithal available, and Wrightbus is in the lap of Northern Ireland.