Energy Bill

Written evidence submitted by Declan Owens, CD Consulting (EB 21)

I am writing to express my opinion on the proposed changes to the Energy Bill.

My main area of concern here is the proposed early closure of the Renewable Obligation (RO) to on-shore wind a year earlier than initially anticipated and proposed. I own and operate a small planning and environmental consultancy business in rural Northern Ireland, since our inception in 2010 we have been heavily involved in the renewable sector and particularly where small scale onshore wind is concerned. Indeed in the years that followed it became a major part of our business.

Like any business we plan for the future and we were well aware that the RO was not going to last forever, however we (like most in the industry) had assumed that it would be here until 2017, at least. The early proposed closure of the RO to onshore wind has had a significant impact on our business and we have went from a partnership organisation which employed 5 people to just about being able to keep our business open.

I can’t help but feel that small businesses like mine has been forgot about in these changes and that the implications of closing this RO has not been fully considered. The last few years have been extremely challenging for all small businesses throughout the UK and it is testament to our hard work, effort and commitment that we managed to see it through and grow as a business. That period of growth has been stopped in its tracks with this proposed closure and putting the deadline back to what it should have been initially would give us a lifeline and an opportunity to prepare better.

DECC in England have stated that they require Northern Ireland to join them in this early closure and indeed have threatened that if they do not, the cost of ‘going it alone’ will go on to the bill of the Northern Ireland consumer. Early attempts from DETI in Northern Ireland to keep Northern Ireland a separate entity, even for smaller scale wind have been knocked back by DECC who remain of the opinion that Northern Ireland must follow suit. Interestingly we have seen proposals for the new feed in tariff to be introduced in England, a feed in tariff which we in Northern Ireland are not going to be afforded or are not going to be able to avail of. Basically DECC are making Northern Ireland follow them in choppy waters whilst moving on without them when the waters clear.

Based on the fact that Northern Ireland is not going to be afforded this feed in tariff I see no reason why we should not be allowed a lifeline in the small scale <250kw wind industry here. My suggestion here would be to allow small scale generators (250kw and under) to claim the RO in Northern Ireland up until the 1st of April 2017. Furthermore due to the grid constraints that we have here in Northern Ireland there should be a 1 year grace period allowed in order to accommodate projects which have been held up during the grid connection stage.

The entire process of closing the RO here in Northern Ireland has been unfair to all stakeholders concerned, and this was copper fastened by our Energy Minister coming out in June of this year and reassuring the market. Minister Bell told us that the RO here in Northern Ireland was going to be open until at least April 2017 as previously advised. I seen first-hand how quite a few people went and spent significant amounts of money on the back of this reassurance. However Minister Bell had a change of tune on the 28th of September when he announced that the RO was close as early as April 2016.

On the whole the proposal as it stands is not the correct way to move forward. The one size fits all attitude employed by DECC is not fit for purpose and the wind industry in Northern Ireland has had the rug pulled from under them. The proposed Energy Bill does not and cannot work for Northern Ireland and will cause significant harm to small scale industry and SME’s unless something is done to rectify this situation.

January 2016

 

Prepared 2nd February 2016