Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Next steps for energy policy in Northern Ireland - strategy and legislation, market development and regulation, and modernisation and a green economic recovery


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on next steps for tackling challenges around decarbonisation and energy system modernisation, as well as the future of innovation and the energy market in NI.

The conference will be an opportunity to discuss the recently published policy options for a new Northern Ireland Energy Strategy 2050, which are currently being consulted on - as well as the NI Climate Change Bill recently introduced into the Assembly.

We are pleased to be able to include keynote sessions with: Thomas Byrne, Director, Energy Strategy, Department for the Economy; John French, Chief Executive, Utility Regulator; and Dr Inna Vorushylo, Project Lead, Zero-IN on NI Heat - as well as further contributions from the SONI; the Expert Panel - Northern Ireland Energy Strategy; AFRY Management Consulting; Carson McDowell; Donnelly Group; the Energy Saving Trust; Gemserv Ireland; NEA NI; Northern Ireland Electricity Networks; the Northern Ireland Renewables Industry Group; Thompsons and CBI Northern Ireland; Phoenix Natural Gas; SSE; and Ulster University.

Areas for discussion include:

  • the Climate Change Bill and the options for the new Energy Strategy, looking at:
    • designing decarbonisation targets for 2050
    • achieving a low-carbon transition for electricity, heat and transport
    • setting realistic goals for the long-term decarbonisation of the Northern Ireland energy mix 
  • the energy market - regulation, competition, reliability and affordability, including widening retailer participation and addressing core challenges around tackling fuel poverty
  • innovation, commercialisation and the clean economic recovery - including opportunities for collaboration between industry and policymakers
  • modernising grid infrastructure and the wider electricity system - improving flexibility and balancing capabilities, integrating low-carbon and smart energy, and reinforcing grid security

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from DAERA; the Department for Communities; the Department for Infrastructure; the Department for the Economy; the Department of Environment, Climate & Communications, ROI; the Northern Ireland Audit Office; and BEIS.

The agenda

  • Policy priorities for the Northern Ireland Energy Strategy and setting a pathway for meeting long-term climate and energy goals
  • Approaches to meeting decarbonisation targets, and the design of the Climate Change Bill
  • Commercialisation and the clean economic recovery - scaling up renewables deployment, developing emerging technologies, public and private engagement, and skills and R&D priorities
  • Competitive and affordable energy markets - widening the supplier base, fair tariff systems and consumer costs, and next steps for tackling fuel poverty in NI
  • Improving whole-system resilience in NI - network capacity for distributed resources, non-generation technologies, and interconnection with ROI
  • Developing regulatory frameworks fit for the energy transition, market developments and a modernised energy system

Key areas for discussion:

The new Northern Ireland Energy Strategy to 2050:

  • creating a holistic strategy:
    • identifying long-term requirements for electricity, heat, decarbonisation and infrastructure
    • what is needed from policymakers to develop support mechanisms
    • tying goals to climate change projections
  • the role of industry - widening joint working between public and private stakeholders, and looking at the future scope of government-led initiatives, including:
    • reducing project costs - looking at the role of industry alongside policymakers
    • investment - strategies for encouraging private sources of finance and improving confidence
  • renewables - priorities for creating new capacity, and options for the future of conventional energy sources:
    • addressing challenges to onshore and offshore deployment
    • increasing the share of clean generation in the supply mix
    • setting pathways for transitioning to low-carbon gas 
  • technology commercialisation - NI’s potential role as an innovation leader, R&D priorities, opportunities for emerging forms of energy, and how to accelerate manufacturing facilities

Energy sector decarbonisation - priorities and next steps in the context of the NI Climate Change Bill, recently introduced into the Assembly:

  • emissions reduction across the energy system - looking at:
    • the policy frameworks and investment needed for power and heat decarbonisation
    • industry incentives and pollution limits
    • encouraging behavioural change
  • a clean NI economic recovery:
    • ensuring that low-carbon investment is integrated across industry recovery plans
    • identifying and prioritising employment opportunities and skills development in green sectors

The NI energy market - regulatory priorities, improving competitiveness, sustainability, as well as customer service and affordability:

  • competition and customers:
    • reducing market barriers, widening retailer participation, and enabling smart-led services
    • balancing clean tariff and incentive scheme needs with avoidance of added consumer costs
    • rethinking Renewable Obligation structures, and setting generator payment certificates that are proportionate to climate benefits, as well as protecting vulnerable consumers
  • tackling fuel poverty:
    • examining further supplier-led obligations for household improvements
    • accelerating insulation and smart demand management rollout
    • assessing the scope for the future of regulated price control interventions
  • an agile and modern regulatory system - including measures to facilitate innovation, as well as to set rates of return that work for both grid operators and consumers, and rules that support the energy transition

Infrastructure modernisation - creating a modern energy infrastructure system and regulatory framework for Northern Ireland:

  • the electricity grid:
    • ensuring network capacity is appropriate for integrating distributed energy resources, and can utilise non-generation technologies like energy storage and EVs
    • looking at what approach should be taken to changing the grid in order to meet NI’s future clean energy ambitions, whether it should be generation-led, developer-led, technology-led or demand-led
  • supply and resilience - looking at energy security challenges, enhancing supply and demand balancing, interconnector pairing with ROI, and the Single Electricity Market

The policy context:

  • the Climate Change Bill - Northern Ireland’s first approach at setting climate legislation, with objectives of the Bill centred around:
    • potential scope and priorities for establishing climate objectives and legislation tailored to NI needs
    • identifying policy and legislative options for accelerating the economy’s low-carbon shift and achieving a clean economic recovery
  • Northern Ireland Energy Strategy 2050 - from the Department for the Economy, with a consultation held last year and the full publication due later this year, which is expected to outline:
    • the way forward for the energy system - and what is required for setting achievable decarbonisation targets and an energy mix appropriate for electricity, heat and transport
    • futureproofing - infrastructure and demand-side management developments that are appropriate for changing consumer behaviours and long-term pressures on the energy system
  • Shaping our Electricity Future - a report from SONI, currently out for consultation, which proposes four options for doubling the amount of renewable power on the grid, including:
    • generation-led - enabling government policy to influence where renewable energy generation should take place, showing preference to locations where the grid is already strong
    • developer-led - continuing to offer grid connections in any location as requested
    • technology-led - using technological solutions to increase grid resilience and flexibility
    • demand-led - using government policy to determine where data centres and other high energy using industries can be located in Northern Ireland
  • NI Renewables Obligations (NIRO) - Northern Ireland Audit Office examination of:
    • the NIRO scheme providing financial incentives for renewable energy generators, and whether it distorts consumer prices through taxpayer burdens
    • the value which NIROs have presented for renewable energy rollout and decarbonisation of retail energy supply, and how some unnecessarily high consumer costs can be reduced
  • the Utility Regulator’s price control periods for electricity and gas networks:
    • the final determination for SONI’s 2020 - 2025 Price Control Setting, and the ongoing consultation on price control for gas transmission
    • the regulator setting a lower rate of return for SONI’s equity allowances for the next control period, while expanding investment for grid infrastructure decarbonisation and modernisation, as well as reduced energy costs for consumers
    • consultation on how equity allowances can also be lowered for gas transmission operators, while ensuring business operations remain protected and that consumers pay less for heating
  • continued operation of the Single Electricity Market - the retention of the SEM for the island of Ireland following the end of the UK-EU Transition Period, ensuring cross-border trading of electricity can continue between the energy systems of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from DAERA; the Department for Communities; the Department for Infrastructure; the Department for the Economy; the Department of Environment, Climate & Communications, ROI; the Northern Ireland Audit Office; Trading Standards Service; and BEIS.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including MLAs, senior executive officials and regulators, together with companies involved in electricity and heat generation, distribution and supply; consultancies; planning lawyers; local authorities; environmental pressure groups; investors; business groups; trade unions; academics and reporters from national media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

Shortly after every Policy Forum for Northern Ireland seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates