By Cllr Cadogan Enright
Allowing ordinary people in South Down to produce cheap Renewable Energy in their own homes
I have accused South Down MLA’s the Northern Ireland Executive of being inactive and failing the public following the publication of UK Government plans to reward those who generate their own renewable electricity, and the availability of grant incentives for renewable energy in the Republic of Ireland.
I believe that homeowners, businesses and farmers are being left out of the economic advantages which will be given to the rest of the UK and Ireland and will lead to the loss of jobs and a lack of economic development in the renewables sector.
It is shocking that following years of developing the renewable energy industry and creating jobs in South Down, we are being left behind because of a lack of support from the Executive for renewable energy, while the rest for the UK and the Republic of Ireland are seeing growth in jobs and the economy in these areas.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change recently published its plans for implementing a Feed-in Tariff for renewable energy generation, which will pay those who install wind turbines, PV panels, etc, up to 40 pence per unit of electricity generated over the lifetime of the system. Similar schemes which are in operation across Europe and the United States have dramatically boosted the installation of microgeneration systems in homes, businesses and farms and have generated over 250,000 jobs in Germany alone. Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, grants are available for all aspects of energy efficiency and renewable energy, which have boosted trade and helped homeowners to save money.
Incentives in the Republic of Ireland
The diagram below shows the extensive range of grants available to house owners south of the border. Further incentives are available to industry and to farmers. These are the sort of incentives we need in Northern Ireland.
English Boiler Scrappage Scheme
A Boiler Scrappage Scheme currently being rolled out in England is offering up to £400 discount on energy efficient boilers. The Green Party has called on the Northern Ireland Executive to consider extending the Boiler Scrappage Scheme to Northern Ireland.
As the cold spell continues and oil prices increase we must be concerned about fuel poverty, a Boiler Scrappage Scheme would help people save money on heating bills. In Belfast, 39% of households are in fuel poverty. Many, particularly the more vulnerable and elderly have to make the choice between heating their homes and eating. This should not be the case in a modern society. A Boiler Scrappage Scheme would be a crucial step forward in addressing the problem of fuel poverty, which is only going to get worse as fossil fuel prices continue to rise.”
This scheme will reduce household bills, greenhouse gases, fuel poverty, dependence on fossil fuels as well as providing a much-needed boost for the installer sector.
NI Government inaction is a Waste of Energy
However, the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment-which has responsibility for energy in Northern Ireland- have chosen not to support any of these schemes, thereby denying the opportunity for thousands of jobs to be created, for homeowners to be paid for their electricity, for farms to become more competitive and to reduce carbon emissions.
I have organised a number of meetings with a large number of businesses involved in the manufacture and installation of renewable energy in Co. Down. These local businsesses emply upwards of 1300 employees in Co. Down. We have been highlighting the threat to their industry from a lack of Government support, yet it seems things have become worse since then. People in South Down and across Northern Ireland are being robbed of this opportunity for jobs and income at a time when hundreds of jobs are being lost and people are finding it increasingly difficult to pay energy bills. The Feed-in Tariff system obviously works and for the Department to take a back seat on this issue will see us fall further behind in the renewable energy race.
The Executive has missed the chance to make a real difference in our energy structure, but they still have the opportunity to implement the UK Government’s plans in full and I urge them to do this straight away to protect the jobs in the industry and help homeowners and businesses to tackle energy costs.
Supporting the Green New Deal!
I have campaigned for years on these issues, and was greatly heartened to see ‘the Green New Deal’ with groups lke the CBI, Irish Congress of Trade Unions & Ulster Farmers Union coming together to back the Green New Deal and espouse Green Economics. I congradulate Fruends of the Earth in NI for achieveing this break-through and call upon the 4 major parties to support this policy. Download Green New Deal here.