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Wind energy 'could become cheaper than gas'

By Linda Stewart

Onshore wind energy could become cheaper than new gas generation by 2020 if the policy and regulatory conditions are right.

That is the message being delivered today by the renewables industry as it holds its annual conference. But it is also warning that investment and jobs will only come if the Northern Ireland Executive delivers a sustainable, secure energy system for all.

Last year, one fifth of Northern Ireland's electricity was generated by wind, according to Northern Ireland Renewable Industry Group (NIRIG) chair Rachel Anderson.

She will tell the NIRIG conference in Belfast's Hilton Hotel that the wind industry is an economic success story that could bring even more investment and jobs.

"From development and construction right through to operation and maintenance, a typical wind farm will invest £1.18m per MW into the local economy over its lifetime, from a sector which is today supporting over 530 jobs," she will say. "The challenge for policy-makers and the industry is to move to ensure that Northern Ireland's wind energy resource can continue to act as a catalyst for jobs and investment for the future, while also cutting harmful emissions."

She will also say that "short-term concerns" should not destroy "the long-term viability of a secure, sustainable and affordable energy supply". Agreement and coordination between the Executive and UK Government is also needed, she will add.

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