Belfast Telegraph

Wind farm shock: Important project had the potential to create thousands of local jobs

By Stephen Agnew

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment must shoulder some of the responsibility for the collapse of a huge renewable energy project off the coast of Co Down.

I was shocked and disappointed to hear First Flight Consortium is ceasing its development of an offshore wind farm. I blame a failure of government for the collapse of this important project.

I intend to raise this issue with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster at the earliest opportunity.  DETI have not persuaded the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to be flexible regarding the how renewable incentives will progress in Northern Ireland.

 The failure to anticipate the knock-on effect of this heel-dragging has rendered this project no longer viable.

 Millions of pounds have already been invested in this project and it had the potential to create and sustain thousands of local jobs.  It is disappointing we are lagging so far behind GB in the arena of renewable energy. This lack of momentum is now having serious effects on the ground with the loss of important projects as these.

 Large-scale renewable energy products have been left in a state of limbo and uncertainty and this makes it impossible for them to remain confident in terms of financial investment.

 This is a huge blow to the renewable energy industry as the scale of this project meant it could have supplied a fifth of Northern Ireland's energy requirements by 2020.

 It would have been one of Northern Ireland's largest infrastructure projects and it would have provided jobs and also helped us hit the target of 40 per cent of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020.

It is frustrating to hear political leaders cheerleading for a cut in corporation tax to persuade multinational firms to come to Northern Ireland, while failing to protect the viable projects we actually have here now.

 There is too much focus on chasing a mythical pot of gold while ignoring the resources we actually have here.

• Stephen Agnew is a Green Party MLA

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