Extracts from a statement made by Cllr Enright to Down Recorder on special 3-page suppliment ofn the growing importance of renewable energy in Down. The Suppliment emphasised the increasing economic importance of cheap renewable energy to local firms seeking to remain competitive by getting planning permission for wind turbines to power their businesses.
“I know that most politicians in N.I. have not worked in the private sector, and thus do not realize the increasing importance of reducing energy costs and ensuring the security of their energy supply in the here and now. Many local politicians are still debating the theory when the reality was decided decades ago in Germany, Demark, Austria and other advanced economies. We have senior Ministers in N.I. who deny climate change and have abolished local supports for renewable energy during the last Assembly.
Even if Sammy Wilson was right and there was no such thing as global warming, there is a world-wide shortage of energy and the only way imported fossil fuel prices are going is up, up and up.
I believe that serious practical local politics in Down involves real businesses and real local jobs that are the mainstay of our private sector exporting to the world. We cannot “rebalance” the economy in N.I. without addressing our energy supply. Dawson Wan as Engineers, the Carsons as farmers in Tyrella or my own business in Downpatrick need cheaper and more reliable energy. I can opt to buy “Green Energy” from Airtricity generated in Scotland and the Republic. And its also 18% cheaper. But big enterprises like the Carsons and Dawson Wan must be allowed to produce their own green energy in N.I. as this cost is vital to their competitiveness. They have to bid for business in situations where their sustainability must be proven.
It is clear that opportunities do exist for a vibrant renewable energy economy in Northern Ireland and across the island of Ireland, which embraces the farmers like the Carsons, big manufacturing companies like Kingspan producing solar panels locally, service companies like Paddy Flynns in Castlewellan and the academic sector with Queens University leading the world with new undersea technologies in Portaferry.
Ordinary households and businesses like Dawson Wan face an increasingly problematical future with the challenges of peak oil, climate change and the economic instability that is arising from these issues globally. I’d wager that 50% of the readership of the Down Recorder have never heard of “peak oil” – and I’d challenge the Down Recorder to analyse for its readers the likely effects of peak oil on this area over the next 10 years.
My fellow politicians must remove the barriers which exist in areas like Planning Policy, Building Regulations, Grid connection and a Lack of incentives and support mechanisms that exist elsewhere across Britain, Ireland and Europe. Aside from companies producing cheap clean energy for their own use, we also need green energy for our local population from wind-farms. Much of our area falls into AONB’s and thus we are unlikely to see strings of massive pylons in these areas and cables are likely to be underground in sensitive areas, but we need wind and sea energy farms too.
I would remind the local planning service that they have a legal duty “to encourage and facilitate the provision of renewable energy and heat generating facilities” and that this is not happening in practice on the ground in Down District.
Renewable energy is key to our sustainable economic and environmental future. We must create a renewable energy economy where homeowners, farmers and businesses are all part of the solution while at the same time being rewarded for their efforts.
Councillor Cadogan Enright
Downpatrick District Council