Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) deputy president David Brown has expressed concern that his organisation had not been consulted on the development of new energy plans for Northern Ireland.
Earlier this week Stormont Economy Minister Diane Dodds launched a public consultation on the development of new policies that would see Northern Ireland achieve a net zero carbon energy position by 2050.
Moreover, the new energy plans for Northern Ireland will seek to ensure that NI’s farming industry has a vital part to play in achieving this objective on the back of its contribution to reducing emissions.
David Brown said:
“The Energy Strategy document recognises that Northern Ireland has a substantial rural agriculture base that can support the growth of biogas and that our modern gas network is more suitable for zero carbon gas than older networks elsewhere.
“This can help us work towards the goal of achieving net zero carbon-energy by 2050.
“However, the UFU was not invited to participate in the five work groups established by the Department for the Economy to create this consultation.
“Yet there was a total of 68 representatives from 33 different organisations involved. It is a slap in the face to the farming industry.”
Resources to reduce emissions
“Agriculture has an active role in reducing carbon emissions and we have resources to hand to play a big part; both in terms of existing renewable infrastructure and recognition of the ongoing innovative solutions which the UFU are working on,” Brown added.
“We have offered to propose our own solutions to addressing this to the Department of Economy but have not been consulted.”
According to the UFU representative, the content within the Northern Ireland Energy Strategy is somewhat contradictory and confusing considering the current status of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
“One of the guiding principles in the Energy Strategy is the replacement of fossil fuels with indigenous renewables to decarbonise power, heat and transport. Yet the NI Executive is pressing ahead with their intentions to close a renewables scheme which has been decarbonising heat – the RHI.”
Welcome for new energy plans for Northern Ireland
Welcoming the launch of the consultation on a new Northern Ireland Energy Strategy, Steven Agnew, Head of Renewable NI, said that the region has reached a linchpin moment in terms of Northern Ireland’s journey towards net zero.
“We cannot overstate how important the transition to net zero is to our environment, our economy and our society,” he said.
“With almost half of our total electricity consumption generated from renewable sources last year, Minister Dodds has recognised the successful role renewables can play in our energy transition.
“In the last two decades, renewable electricity has resulted in a net £135m benefit to consumers, a nine million tonne reduction in carbon emissions and the creation of 2,000 jobs.”
Commenting specifically on the role that agriculture can play in meeting the net zero carbon target, Agnew said:
“The previous energy strategy resulted in a significant small scale wind sector with many turbines owned and operated by local farmers.
“There is an opportunity to further grow this industry, providing an additional income stream for farms and landowners while also contributing to the decarbonisation of Northern Ireland’s economy.”