Committee for the Economy: Energy Strategy Report

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:45 pm on 23rd November 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Pat Catney Pat Catney Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:45 pm, 23rd November 2020

Yes, I agree, and I have to ask that question, but we are looking at what we are doing here in Northern Ireland. It is good news that has to be commended and welcomed as much as possible.

The suggested target of renewable energy for Northern Ireland of 80% by 2030 would have the effect on the reduction of carbon emissions of every household turning off the electricity for 1·5 years. The key success to our increase in renewable generation has been the increase in onshore wind. The Northern Ireland renewables obligation (NIRO), which was the main support stream for encouraging increased renewable electricity generation, spurred that on. However, the scheme closed in 2017. Any future targets must be accompanied by credible incentive schemes in order to spearhead movement towards our ambitious targets.

However, it is not all good news. Successive Executives have failed to produce a coherent plan to realise the benefits of offshore wind, while all our closest neighbours have shot forward in that area. There must be continued engagement with partners across Government and businesses, including the Crown Estate, to address barriers and ensure that Northern Ireland has the potential to benefit from future seabed leasing rounds.

We need to consider the clear targets on heat that were set by the Government in Dublin to have 500,000 greener homes and 400,000 heat pumps installed by 2030. That goes beyond the structured thinking of just looking at heat, power and transport. It will require us to look at changing behaviour, and a model should be taken from the EU clean energy package's ambition to see citizens put at the heart of the future of energy. That behavioural shift will be key to any effective energy transformation.

We need to keep an eye on emerging transport technologies, which has been alluded to by my colleague. While hydrogen will be the key to unlocking the greener transport system, any energy strategy must have the flexibility to deal with new technologies that we may not have fully considered today. That will not only make the strategy more effective but will add to the longevity of it. I also welcome the work that the Minister for Infrastructure has been doing to develop a green transport strategy, particularly the groundbreaking cross-border work with Minister Ryan that I hope to see much more of.

A new green economy is not only central to protecting our area for the next generations but it is now clear that it is central to the recovery of our economy from the pandemic and will be a key driver for growth in the future. I know that the Committee will continue to work to make sure that any energy strategy realises that potential.