Wind energy is the key to Northern Ireland meeting its renewable energy targets, Environment Minister Edwin Poots has said.
Addressing the first Northern Ireland Wind Workshop in Belfast, the Minister stressed his commitment to supporting the wind industry and other renewable energy technologies to meet commitments to tackling climate change.
He said his department has a pivotal role to play in facilitating the deployment of renewable electricity generation necessary for Northern Ireland to meet challenging renewable energy targets.
“I am fully aware that more needs to be achieved over the next 10 years if we are to meet the 40% target of electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020 set out in the Draft Strategic Energy Framework,” Mr Poots said.
“While other renewable energy technologies will play an increasingly important role, I believe it is the mature technology of wind energy that will provide the most significant contribution toward the achievement of this target.”
The Minister explained to more than 100 delegates that his department’s new planning policy for renewable energy, PPS18, is designed to assist the growth of the overall renewable sector.
“I believe firmly that PPS18 strikes the right balance between protection of our valuable natural heritage and preservation of the amenity of rural dwellers, whilst at the same time ensuring that the necessary renewable energy infrastructure is put in place to allow us to meet our renewable energy targets,” he said.
Northern Ireland is already saving up to £63,000 a day in fossil fuel costs thanks to its wind turbines, according to the Irish Wind Energy Association which organised the workshop.
The group’s CEO Dr Michael Walsh said Northern Ireland could dramatically reduce its 99% reliance on imported fossil fuels by expanding its renewable sources and this could create more than 1,300 green jobs in Northern Ireland.
“The forthcoming Northern Ireland Strategic Energy Framework is an extremely welcome initiative which we hope will provide the supporting policy infrastructure necessary to drive the development of Northern Ireland’s renewable resources,” Dr Walsh said.
IWEA recently completed an analysis of the impact of wind generation on the cost of production of electricity. Based on production figures from the last week in July, IWEA compared the cost of fossil fuel generation on windy days with the same cost on less windy days with very similar demand. After adjusting for demand variations IWEA found the saving in fossil fuel costs varied between £46,000 and £63,000 per day for Northern Ireland.