Committee for the Economy: Energy Strategy Report

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:30 pm on 23rd November 2020.

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Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green 4:30 pm, 23rd November 2020

The Green Party also very much welcomes the motion. We are encouraged by the vast range of views and positive suggestions given by organisations to the energy strategy micro inquiry. We would now like to see those carefully analysed in order to extract the enormous amount of value and level of expertise that has been given to us in the report. Whilst we are hearing the strong common theme of interconnectivity from Members, we feel that there is a gap in the responses, because most are about energy. We heard in the debate that energy is only half of what we should be thinking about. Rather than the focus being singularly on energy, it, rightly, needs to extend to the green economy and to how all the things that are suggested in the micro inquiry can be used to generate more and better jobs, more savings and better and healthier lifestyles while giving us the tools to begin to combat and redress the damage that we allowed to happen to our environment before we reach the point of no return.

We know through previous motions and debates that the House has recognised that we are in a climate crisis and that decarbonising is urgent and essential. If the primary role of a Government is to work for the betterment of its people, one of the primary purposes of an energy strategy should be to provide a healthy, robust and sustainable economy in which all people can thrive.

The Green Party sees that future through a climate change Act, transforming and growing Northern Ireland from a fossil-fuelled driven economy to a green energy economy. With the level of renewable electricity that is being produced and managed, Northern Ireland will become a world leader in the technologies of renewable electricity and smart grid.

A green economy provides for a range of really transformative policies that will help us to rebuild society in a sustainable and ethical way, including, but not limited to, decarbonising our energy systems in order to prevent the worst of climate change and the immense monetary costs that global warming would bring to the people of Northern Ireland. It would also include opening a new range of quality jobs and economic opportunities for the people of Northern Ireland; providing a solid base for our economy to grow and compete on the European and world stage; preserving the biodiversity on which our planet and we depend for our existence; and providing a Northern Ireland that will sustain and nourish our children and their children, physically and economically. However, we really need to focus on the priorities. The proposed energy strategy process of which this micro inquiry report and debate are part, will take another year to be enacted. Only then will the required actions begin to be planned and deployed, which is likely to take another two years post-November 2021. We simply cannot wait another three years, particularly as the existing strategy is 11 years old.

The Economy Minister acknowledged that in her presentation at the energy forum on 29 September. In her responses to my questions for written answer, she said that she would not wait on the energy strategy to take urgent action. I ask the Minister to clarify what exactly those actions are and when she will be carrying them out.

Whilst the Green Party is not in the Executive, nor do we have members on the Economy Committee, I am confident that, as a party, we can offer some very valuable advice on the priorities and actions that should be taken. I am delighted to have the opportunity, through the motion, to put some of them on record. My party's view is that those actions should be based around four key themes. The first is electric vehicle-charging infrastructure. It is obvious that we in Northern Ireland are being left behind GB and ROI in the uptake of electric cars, with the main issue being the absence of adequate charging infrastructure.