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How wind power can strike a big blow for Northern Ireland's economy

By Mark Ennis

Published 15/06/2016

Paul Cooley from SSE Renewables and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness visiting Slieve Kirk wind park
Paul Cooley from SSE Renewables and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness visiting Slieve Kirk wind park

Today is Global Wind Day, a worldwide event that falls each year on June 15. All around the world, it is marked as a day for discovering wind, its power and the possibilities it holds to reshape our energy systems, decarbonise our economies and boost jobs and growth.

Northern Ireland has been successful in harnessing this opportunity to meet climate change goals. Frequently, wind energy supply exceeds 50% of electricity demand in the market.

Renewable energy depresses the wholesale price of electricity, makes significant contributions to the local economy and supports employment in the region. A recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) report indicated that 2,000 companies were active in the sector in Northern Ireland, sustaining 6,500 full-time jobs and demonstrating that the Assembly's energy policy has to date effectively delivered.

SSE has proudly made its own contribution to this economic opportunity. Today, at Slieve Kirk Wind Park near Derry-Londonderry, we host a Northern Ireland Chamber Minister on the Move event, during which we will welcome the new Minister for Infrastructure, Chris Hazzard, and Chamber members to tour the wind park. We will also showcase the economic contribution that renewable energy has delivered here.

Slieve Kirk, the largest wind farm in Northern Ireland, represents a total investment by SSE of £125m, £55mn of which is directly into the local economy. It provides sufficient power for 65,000 homes and saves 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere.

The wind farm has contributed almost £750,000 so far to more than 100 local projects through the SSE Airtricity Community Fund, alongside 55 scholarships for local students progressing to third-level education.

Our economy is seeking to grow and prosper over the coming years. Greening our energy supply will not only provide an economic boost to Northern Ireland through investment in renewable energy projects, but it will also further incentivise foreign direct investors to choose Northern Ireland as their location of choice, as we have already seen multinationals do in the Republic of Ireland.

Global Wind Day allows us to pause and reflect on the success of our efforts so far here, not just in harnessing wind power for more affordable clean energy, but also in real economic terms through sustaining full time employment.

In reflecting on that success, we can look forward with confidence at the opportunity that a continued commitment to wind power affords the Stormont Executive to achieve the outcome of a thriving low-carbon economy - an outcome which we all desire through the Executive's new Programme for Government.

Mark Ennis CBE is chairman of SSE Ireland

Belfast Telegraph

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