Belfast Telegraph

Call to create new support structure for renewables in Northern Ireland

By Margaret Canning

A new support structure is required for renewables in Northern Ireland as the subsidy scheme for small-scale wind projects closes, it has been claimed.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton this week announced that the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO) for funding small wind projects would shut on Thursday.

Mark Stockdale, an associate partner and energy expert at law firm A&L Goodbody, said the decision had wider implications for the entire renewables industry.

He claimed there had been fears that Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation Certificates (NIROCs) could have ceased to be tradeable in Great Britain if the programme was kept open after the end of this month.

"The decision therefore should ease concerns around the future value of NIROCs and help provide some much-needed certainty for the renewable industry generally into the final years of the scheme," he explained.

The NIRO was closed last year to all forms of renewable generation, apart from onshore wind. It was closed to large onshore wind in April - a year earlier than planned, leading to a backlash against the then-Enterprise Minister, Jonathan Bell.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) had announced it was closing its scheme - creating pressure for Northern Ireland as the DECC had said the continuance of a scheme here would have to be paid for locally.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment held a separate consultation on the NIRO for small wind projects, which led to Simon Hamilton's decision on Monday.

The Ulster Farmers' Union, Simple Power, Renewable NI and Wind NI welcomed Mr Hamilton's announcement.

A spokeswoman for the group said it was disappointed the scheme was closing a year earlier than expected due to DECC's decisions, but said it welcomed the "clarity and certainty".

"Many involved in the small-scale wind industry have invested on the strength of the availability of the NIRO," the spokeswoman added. "They can now move forward with greater confidence that their investment has been protected if they meet the eligibility criteria."

And she said that NIE Networks now needed to work on ensuring eligible parties were able to connect to the grid.

"Our sector looks forward to working with Government and other bodies in developing a new renewables support structure, post-NIRO, to ensure an even playing field," she added.

Belfast Telegraph