Will the early end to subsidies for new UK onshore wind farms affect NI?September 15, 2015
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced its intention to end the financial subsidies for onshore wind in GB by legislating to close the Renewables Obligation to new on-shore wind generating stations from 1 April 2016, one year earlier than expected.
There are currently 35 operational onshore wind farms (> 1 turbine) in Northern Ireland with a capacity of over 600 MW, with more than the same again having been consented but not yet constructed. Proportionally to the rest of the UK (considering the size of Northern Ireland) this is above the average and shows how important this sector is for the region. No doubt the DECC’s announcement will have created concern for developers and investors in Northern Ireland.
In a Ministerial Statement of 18 June 2015 Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth said “I am currently in discussions with Ministers there to agree how our commitments on onshore wind will be implemented in Northern Ireland”.
Energy policy is however a devolved matter in Northern Ireland. Jonathan Bell, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, stated that he did not intend to follow the Westminster government’s policy to close the existing scheme early. He added that onshore wind has enabled the Executive to reach its ambitious Programme for Government target to have 20% of our electricity generated by renewables by 2015.
It is indeed difficult to see how Northern Ireland might meet its ambitious 40% renewable target by 2020 without considerable further onshore wind development.
It remains to be seen what will happen in this area and the current situation surrounding the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland only adds to the current uncertainty.
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