Belfast Telegraph

First Flight Wind farm loss a serious blow

Editor's Viewpoint

The decision by First Flight Wind to pull the plug on a massive offshore wind power scheme which could have supplied 20% of the province's electricity needs by 2020 is a double blow. Firstly, it means we have a continuing over-reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation.

Secondly, it sends a negative message to other renewable energy companies on the preparedness and determination of Northern Ireland to meet desirable targets on electricity generation from renewable sources.

The Northern Ireland target is to have 40% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020, but that will now be difficult to achieve.

The exact reasons for the ending of the project are unclear thanks to an enigmatic statement from the company. But it seems that a number of factors are involved, including the lack of an Ireland-wide market for power generated and the financial incentives available.

It would be wrong to apportion blame - as some are doing - to either the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment at Stormont or the Energy Regulator until there is a clearer explanation of why the project has been halted.

Certainly, this should be done sooner rather than later as, almost inevitably, an impression will go abroad that Northern Ireland can be a difficult place to do business.

We don't want another John Lewis debacle where unpardonably long delays in the planning process and interminable court cases led to the retailer abandoning plans to set up here.

And it has to be borne in mind that we must keep developing the renewable energy market. While 40% of electricity generation through these sources is a fair target, it pales in comparison to the Scottish government's determination to have 80% of its electricity generated by renewable sources by 2020.

This is the future. The United States is now self-reliant in oil because of the contribution to its energy needs by renewable sources.

We may be a small dot on the world map but we have to continue striving to change the way we get our energy supplies.

First Wind's decision seems final, but such is the potential of this project that determined efforts must be made to see if it can be rescued or what lessons can be learned for future projects.

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