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Wind farms are helping Northern Ireland achieve renewable energy targets

Wind farms are helping Northern Ireland achieve renewable energy targets

Wind farms are helping Northern Ireland achieve renewable energy targets

Up until January this year Northern Ireland was operating in a political vacuum that was detrimental for the business community and for everyone in society.

No political system is perfect, and the restoration of the Assembly is not the answer to all our problems, but it is certainly widely held that we are better off with a devolved government than no government at all.

At SSE Renewables, we are committed to working with the institutions to help develop and deliver policies which deliver a sustainable and prosperous future.

No policy area is more vital in this regard than energy and the consultation on a future energy policy for Northern Ireland is a hugely welcome and timely development.

Northern Ireland has an enviable track record on renewable energy, evidenced by the fact that the region exceeded its existing renewable energy target, achieving a high of 44% wind on the energy system by 2019.

At a UK level, the Government is working towards 'Net Zero' by 2050 and our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland have a target of 70% energy from renewables by 2030.

These are ambitious but vital targets and they present great challenges right across project development lifecycles, for government, policy makers, and industry.

And now hopefully in Northern Ireland, as we embark on defining a new future energy policy for the region, we will see the same ambition to drive the change we need so that we play our part in supporting the UK's wider 'Net Zero' target.

That's why we welcome the call for evidence on the NI Energy Strategy which is currently open for submissions.

We hope this strategy, when finalised and agreed, will bring clarity to the energy policy environment in Northern Ireland, and encourage industry to bring forward more renewable energy investments here.

All of that can be progressed now that we have a local minister in place to take the necessary decisions.

It may just be that all the pieces we need to elevate the position of Northern Ireland on the global energy stage are now falling into place.

At SSE Renewables we have a track record which enables us to comment with a degree of authority on this important topic.

Through our parent company SSE plc we have invested more than £500m in the Northern Ireland economy over the last two decades and we already generate over 140MW of renewable energy at our wind farms in counties Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh, including energy from Northern Ireland's largest wind farm, Slieve Kirk.

And we are currently awaiting a planning decision on what would become Northern Ireland's biggest wind farm, once built, at Doraville in Co Tyrone.

We firmly believe Doraville wind farm will help deliver similar benefits for the region while also making a meaningful contribution on behalf of Northern Ireland to the UK's net zero carbon goal by 2050.

Locally, the Doraville project would yield approximately £500,000 in community fund benefits each year and over £1.5m in rates. We have also committed to fund a £1m tourism fund and will work with local families to support energy efficiency actions in local homes.

This local impact is important to us. We always want to work in partnership with the communities where we harness green energy and of course the national and global impact is increasingly prominent.

We all know the awareness of, and support for, climate action has never been higher, particularly among our younger people who have been inspired by Greta Thunberg.

In Northern Ireland we may be relatively small in size but we can lead by example, set a high bar and then exceed our own ambition.

The global direction of travel is now set.

Either we choose to lead the way or we get left behind.

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