Ireland: Review of Renewable Energy Policy

A review has begun into planning policy for renewable energy projects.

It was announced by Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, who said the challenge was to facilitate development which was acceptable to communities.

There will be a greater focus on renewables as Northern Ireland tries to hit climate change targets and develop a new energy strategy.

About 50% of Northern Ireland’s electricity is already generated from renewables – mostly wind.

But there has been some public opposition to certain major projects.

Last October the minister turned down permission for what would have been Northern Ireland’s biggest windfarm.

Ms Mallon said the 33 turbines close to Draperstown in County Londonderry would affect the landscape in the Sperrin Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The scale of the Doraville Wind Farm had the potential to detract from “local people’s sense of place and connection to the land”.

There has also been criticism of planners’ failure to protect an important heritage site near Rathfriland in County Down from small scale wind development.

And a Northern Ireland Audit Office report found that turbines and anaerobic digesters could qualify for public subsidy even if they did not have planning and other environmental permissions.

“The planning system has played a key role to date in helping to achieve and exceed Northern Ireland’s renewable electricity target and I want to ensure that my department’s regional planning policy remains up to date, robust and fit for purpose,” said Ms Mallon.

She said there would be extensive engagement with interested groups and the public as part of the review process.

The review was welcomed by RenewableNI, an organisation which represents the renewable electricity industry in Northern Ireland.

“This review provides us all with the opportunity to help create a planning structure that is fit-for-purpose, and in time to facilitate the delivery of a new energy strategy,” said Steven Agnew, head of RenewableNI.

“Ensuring the review is robust and efficient is therefore key. Our members look forward to engaging with the process, allowing us all to reap the rewards that comes from renewables – sooner rather than later.”


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