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This conference discussed next steps for the energy sector in Northern Ireland.
It brought together policymakers, regulators and stakeholders to assess the ongoing implementation of the Department for the Economy’s Energy Strategy Action Plan 2023, and the plans to drive Northern Ireland towards complete energy decarbonisation by 2050.
We expected discussion to focus on the key pillars of the strategy, including serving the needs of consumers, increasing energy efficiency, growing the green economy and transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables.
It came with concerns around higher energy prices for consumers in Northern Ireland going forward, with the end of the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) Scheme and also following the Utility Regulator’s review of costs in September.
Delegates discussed the infrastructure and system improvements that will be needed for the future, following the £3bn investment announced by NIE Networks into Northern Ireland’s energy grid.
The conference was also a timely opportunity to look ahead to Northern Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, which was due by the end of the year, and subsequent carbon budget, and assess issues and what further support will be needed in meeting climate targets.
We are pleased to have been able to include keynote sessions with: Colin Broomfield, Markets Director, Utility Regulator; Debbie Caldwell, Chair, Belfast Climate Commission; Randal Gilbert, Network Assets Director, NIE Networks; and Niall Farrell, Senior Research Officer, Economic and Social Research Institute.
Overall, areas for discussion included:
- the energy strategy: policy priorities for the sector - taking forward the action plan - considering the practicalities of meeting objectives laid out in the strategy - government support
- the path to decarbonisation: renewables scale-up - potential of hydrogen and developing the green hydrogen economy - investment priorities for renewable projects and infrastructure
- the North-South Interconnector project: assessing progress so far and potential barriers - utilising the benefits of future grid interconnection - maintaining momentum on delivery by 2026
- enhancing the grid: capitalising on recent investment - priorities for securing and targeting further investment - growing and maintaining the grid to ensure efficiency and security of supply
- regulation: balancing short-term priorities with making progress on long-term goals for the grid - balancing security of supply with further development of renewable energy infrastructure
- protecting consumers: mitigating the impact of the termination of the EPG Scheme - facilitating a just energy transition
The conference was an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who attended from DAERA; Defra; Department for Communities; Department for the Economy; Department for Infrastructure; Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, ROI; DfE, UK; DETE, ROI; Department of Finance; DESNZ, UK; DfE, UK; DfT, UK; FCDO, UK; HSENI; NIAO; NIEA; NIHE; and the Welsh Government.