BUSINESSES in Northern Ireland have been learning about how to generate heat – and get paid for it – at a conference on sustainable energy in Belfast.
The conference organised by Action Renewables came just weeks after it was warned that jobs could be lost in Northern Ireland because of high energy prices.
Manufacturing NI, which represents almost 500 businesses in the manufacturing sector, told the enterprise committee at Stormont that high energy costs are causing "a crisis" in the Northern Ireland economy.
Power for manufacturing costs 20% more than the Republic or Britain and manufacturers are paying the second highest costs in Europe behind Italy.
Action Renewables is urging companies to take advantage of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), a Government scheme introduced to help businesses embrace renewable technologies and save tens of thousands of pounds on their heating bills.
The RHI is a Government scheme that provides financial support to non-domestic renewable heat generators and is already helping a number of firms here.
Recently NISA Islandbawn forecourt supermarket in Antrim was announced as the first retailer in Northern Ireland to be accepted into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), enabling the retailer to make an immediate saving of 72% on its energy bills, and the business will eventually remove the overhead of heating and hot water until 2033.
The store, located on the Belfast Road, has been in operation for over 30 years and through RHI was able to install a bespoke heating system supplied by another Antrim-based company, BS Holdings.
BS Holdings, based in Randalstown, also helped Charles Hurst in Belfast become the first car dealership to receive RHI, after the group invested £250,000 in a new sustainable means of heating its Belfast-based Chrysler Jeep showrooms, to reduce carbon, CO2 emissions and heating costs.
Delegates listened to speakers including Lord Brookeborough, owner of Colebrooke Estate and Spa in Co Fermanagh – which offers a wedding venue, conference facilities and country sports – which installed a biomass boiler following an approach by Channel 4's Country House Rescue.
Lord Brookeborough eventually intends to use wood from his own forests to help heat the property.
Nicola Murphy, business development manager at Action Renewables, said: "Although the Renewable Heat Incentive was introduced at the end of last year, many private sector businesses and public-sector organisations are still not fully aware of the incentive and its benefits."
Savings on energy bills made by a supermarket using the new incentive