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Northern Ireland energy warning

If the rest of the world wasted energy at the rate of Northern Ireland it would take three planets to meet the demand, the Assembly has heard.

The over-reliance on imported fossil fuels is risking future economy recovery, the Alliance Party warned as it called for the Executive to adopt a Green New Deal and enshrine a Climate Change Act to legally commit the region to EU and UK targets to cut emissions.

Embracing sustainable energy sources, such as wind, will not only create jobs and reduce household bills but also contribute to the fight against global warming, said Sean Neeson.

Tabling the motion on the floor of the Assembly, the party's East Antrim MLA said Northern Ireland's current sources of energy supply and levels of demand are unsustainable.

"In Northern Ireland we are almost completely dependent on imported fossil fuels to meet our energy needs and rely heavily on oil, an unregulated and rapidly depleting finite resource," said Mr Neeson.

"This presents a number of risks for the future growth of our economy. We are heavy polluters, lead unsustainable lifestyles and contribute disproportionately to climate change. If everyone in the world were to consume natural resources and produce carbon dioxide emissions at the same rate as a Northern Ireland resident, it would take over three planets to support our needs."

The debate came less than a week after former US president Bill Clinton used a keynote speech in Londonderry to urge Northern Ireland to increase use of sustainable energy sources to help the region emerge from its economic woes.

Mr Neeson told Assembly colleagues that implementing the eco-friendly strategy could create many new employment opportunities. "Potential employment opportunities range from hi-tech manufacturing jobs, to maintenance jobs at wind power plants or in sustaining and growing employment in the agricultural sector producing biomass."

Energy minister Arlene Foster said she supported the New Green Deal concept but cautioned that it would have to be delivered with sound financial planning.

She said in the current economic climate hefty Government investment could not be guaranteed.

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