Memorandum from Sir Reg Empey, MLA, Minister
for Enterprise, Trade and Investment,
Northern Ireland Executive
Q1. What is the statutory position of Northern
Ireland with respect to energy policy, and what do you understand
to be the full extent of your devolved powers and responsibilities
in this area?
A1. The Northern Ireland administration
has fully devolved powers, including legislative powers, in regard
to energy policy. These powers are normally exercised in a manner
which is consistent with European law and with energy policy in
the rest of the United Kingdom unless such policy is not appropriate
having regard to the particular circumstances in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland also has separate electricity and gas regulation
arrangements, including its own Regulator.
Q2. Have you developed a sustainable energy
strategy for the devolved administration, or are you planning
to do so? What targets might this include for renewable energy?
A2. I am in the process of developing an
energy market strategy for Northern Ireland and this will include
setting targets for renewable energy. I expect to complete this
process before the end of 2002. For the Committee's information,
I enclose copies of two recent consultation documents"Renewable
Energy in Northern IrelandRealising the Potential"
and "Towards a New Energy Market Strategy for Northern Ireland."
Q3. Given the fact that different areas of
the UK have different potentials for delivering renewable energy,
what process is in place for determining the share of any UK targets
which each devolved administration should bear? Do you think that
present arrangements in this area are adequate? In what ways should
they be improved?
A3. On 6 March 2002, the Minister for EnergyBrian
Wilson MPpublished details of the potential for renewable
energy for each region of Great Britain. My Department is part
funding a current study which is estimating the practicable renewable
energy resources in Northern Ireland taking into account the different
types of generation technology, the constraints imposed by various
planning/environmental requirements or procedures and the transmission
and system operational issues. I expect to have the results of
this study by summer 2002. I am satisfied that the present arrangements
for determining potential regional contributions towards a UK
target are satisfactory.
Q4. What is the current position of Northern
Ireland in regard to renewable energy generation?
A4. The current position is that around
25 Megawatts of electricity is being generated from renewable
sourcesprimarily windin Northern Ireland. This represents
1.7 per cent of Northern Ireland's current peak winter demand
or 1.2 per cent of available electricity. There is an existing
target of 45 Megawatts (about 3 per cent of peak winter demand)
by 2005. The present estimate is that Northern Ireland has the
potential to generate between 240 and 330 Megawatts from renewable
sources (that is, between 16 per cent and 22 per cent of peak
winter demand). Wind power is likely to be the major source of
renewable energy but, because of its intermittent nature, there
may be grid control problemsthis is one of the issues which
the study mentioned at A3 will address.
Q5. What are the main barriers at present
to increasing the uptake of renewable energy generation in Northern
Ireland, and what policies are you developing to address them?
A5. Various barriers exist. These are being
considered and actions are being taken to address them, including:
cost in the region which already
has a wide and widening disparity with electricity prices in Great
Britain. A study is underway to address means of reducing electricity
prices in Northern Ireland;
technical constraints including
problems of grid connection, although these should become clearer
as a result of the study mentioned at A3 above;
trading constraints which
the Regulator in Northern Ireland is actively pursuing and at
least a temporary solution is imminent;
environmental impact which,
while not a major issues up to now, is emerging in relation to
a potential offshore wind project and the increasing number of
onshore wind sites;
immaturity of renewable technologies
other than wind.
The policies which apply at present in Northern
Ireland are pre-Utilities Act 2000. The current consultation process
and the ongoing studies by this Department and the Regulator will
lead to the development of a fresh renewables policy in Northern
Ireland with clear targets set for the proportion of electricity
from renewable sources. As necessary, legislation proposals will
be brought forward for consideration by the Northern Ireland Assembly.
54 The Committee asked a number of questions to the
Northern Ireland Executive and these are shown in italics. Back