Local Green Party Cllr Cadogan Enright has called for incentives recently been introduced in the Republic to be extended to Northern Ireland as a means of supporting new sources of farming income and tackling energy needs.
Cllr Enright said, “Our Electricity Grid is now managed across Ireland as a whole. It is therefore discriminatory for our farmers not to receive the same incentive for renewable energy crops that are available to their counterparts in the Republic”.
Rowallen Ulster Unionist councillor Robert Burgess said, “Speaking as a farmer I find it entirely unacceptable that we have one electricity grid across the island, but our farmers are not being facilitated in producing energy in the manner that they are in the Republic. There is free competition between fossil-fuel energy producers North and South, we farmers need a level playing pitch in renewable energy too”.
Cllrs Enright and Burgess have called for their respective MLA representatives in Stormont to take this matter up with the DUP minister in charge, and seek the production of renewable energy to be managed at inter-governmental Ministerial level for coordination in the single shared grid.
Cllrs Enright and Burgess made the call after it was announced that the Green Party Minister for Energy in the Republic, Eamonn Ryan, was introducing a price structure to reward the production of electricity from natural resources, such as willow, wood, and even farmyard slurry. This will result in farmers being paid to grow biomass which can then be used to generate energy and so reduce demand for imported fossil fuels.
“Local farmers should have the same opportunities as those in the Republic of Ireland to grow crops which are economically viable and which will produce a sustainable agricultural income while helping to tackle climate change. This scheme should be introduced by the Minister responsible as soon as possible as it has so many positive aspects. The NI Branch of the Confederation on British Industry predicted last year that the NI economy will be in serious danger of we do not cease being 99% dependent of imported fossil fuel.”, Cllr Enright said.
“I have always maintained that farmers could be at the forefront of the green economy and the fight against climate change. This new support price has the potential to contribute to economic recovery in rural Ireland as well as reducing overall national dependence on imported fossil fuels. The Ulster Farmers Union last year called for 15% of all energy in NI to be produced by farms in NI in the ‘Green New Deal’ they jointly agreed with business and trade union leaders. It is particularly important that these incentives are guaranteed for a 15-year period, this would afford farmbers the re-assurance requird to invest heavily in the capital goods and long-term planting needed to bring such businesses to fruition”, said Cllr Burgess.
Downpatrick councillor Cadogan Enright said “Business will also benefit from the ability to produce their own electricity on-site and sell the surplus to the national grid. This would have major benefits for South Down and across Northern Ireland and needs to be copied from the Republic, particularly as we have a Single Electricity Market on this island so any incentives in just one jurisdiction will negatively impact on the other if not replicated. Farmers in the Lecale area have to battle obstacles to be allowed to produce anything.”
Rowallan Cllr Burgess concluded “With the planned reductions in subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy in the future, it is critical that farmers and rural producers are offered an alternative, sustainable form of living and such schemes would provide that support. I would call on all the farmers and rural industries to make their voices heard in calling for a fair deal on renewable energy “.