The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) All Ireland Forum publishes today a report giving its comprehensive analysis of the development of renewable energy policy in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Whilst some promising moves forward are welcomed, the report argues that there needs to be a greater level of political will and determination brought to unlock the huge low carbon benefits that are possible across the island. It also urges the governments, north and south, to give Councils a greater role in delivering a local decentralised energy revolution. (1)
The NFLA report considers the Republic of Ireland Government’s White Paper on energy futures to 2050, and the Northern Ireland Government’s renewable energy vision to 2050. Whilst NFLA supports the proposed direction of travel to upscale renewable energy, community energy, energy efficiency and energy storage, the report argues a general lack of urgency is clearly evident in governments, north and south, and in most political parties across the island. If urgency to deliver such policies does not increase, a huge opportunity to deliver a low carbon future, and even become an energy exporter of renewables, could be lost.
Key conclusions of the report include:
- Great potential is evident across the island of Ireland in becoming a leading generator of renewable energy, but it is not being fully realised.
- It is apparent that neither Government, north or south, really understands either the ensuing threat of climate change or the potential of the transition to carbon free economies and the economic benefits of ‘getting ahead of the curve’ instead of timidly following trends elsewhere. If they did understand then targets would be set for home heating, agriculture and transport. The rapid deployment of renewable energy and their declining costs around the world is also not evident in government policy.
- Energy policy is not given sufficient focus in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland by most political parties, missing out on the opportunities that are available for up-scaling low carbon infrastructure.
- The Governments, north and south, need to actively consider new legislation and other methods to engage Councils more actively in the support of low carbon initiatives.
- Councils across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland need to look at the bold policies to develop decentralised energy in England, Scotland and Wales and look to find ways to follow suit. A parallel NFLA Policy briefing has been made available to them to understand some of the best examples across the Irish Sea. (2)
- With more ambition, resource and a stable energy policy framework the island of Ireland could follow the lead of similar sized European countries like Denmark and Portugal who have rapidly developed low carbon energy projects.
- The decision of the UK electorate to leave the European Union could have profound effects on the development of a single integrated energy market (IEM) on the island of Ireland. The two governments, north and south, need to urgently negotiate with the UK Government and the European Commission to find ways to secure the IEM.
NFLA All Ireland Co Chair (for the Republic of Ireland) Councillor Mark Dearey said:
This detailed and expert report by the NFLA shows to both governments in Ireland and to Irish Councils the huge opportunity that exists to deliver decentralised and renewable energy. It shows consistently that politicians from across the spectrum are not giving sufficient energy to our low carbon debate. Irish councillors should look at the fantastic developments in delivering low energy projects across England, Scotland and Wales and work for ways to do likewise here.
My own Municipal District in Dundalk has established a multi-disciplinary Renewable Energy Unit to take such matters forward and I urge other Councils and Municipal Districts to establish similar bodies. It is clear to me that Ireland has the renewable energy resources available to follow such a low carbon path. Now it needs the political will, the resources and the legislation to realise it. This report challenges all in government to be part of the local decentralised energy revolution. I call on Councils to join with the NFLA and help deliver it.”
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co Chair (for Northern Ireland) Councillor Michael Carr added:
I welcome this report and call on the Northern Ireland Executive and our larger District Councils to consider its analysis and action its recommendations. The reorganisation of our Councils was supposed to be about giving us more ambition and resource. Developing energy policy is clearly one way we can all do that. I want to see my own Council of Newry, Mourne and Down taking up the challenge, as well as the likes of Belfast and Derry to move forward with developing decentralised energy policy. Of course, the Government needs to do much more, and one simple way would be to reverse the subsidy cuts to wind and solar energy as it should not be following the bad example of the UK Government in this area.
I am also very concerned of how Brexit could hinder our renewable energy generation policies and call on Ministers to urgently talk with the governments in Dublin and Westminster to ensure the island of Ireland can become a single integrated energy market. Why can’t Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland be like Denmark and lead the way on promoting decentralised energy? This report calls on us all to work for that aim and we as councillors must grasp that nettle.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on either 0161 234 3244 or 07771 930196.
Notes for editors:
(1) The NFLA report looking at Irish energy futures, NFLA Policy Briefing 151, is attached with this media release and can be found on the NFLA website home page http://www.nuclearpolicy.info.
(2) The NFLA report looking at best practice in decentralised energy in England, Scotland and Wales, NFLA Policy Briefing 152, is also attached with this media release and can be found on the NFLA website home page.