29/02/2012

Key Priorities Outline For NI's Energy Future

Energy Minister, Arlene Foster today outlined the ambitious plans for Northern Ireland’s energy future over the next decade.

Speaking at the annual CBI Northern Ireland Energy Forum, the Minister said that the implementation of the Strategic Energy Framework (SEF 2012) for Northern Ireland was well underway.

Arlene Foster said: "As most of you here today will be aware, the SEF 2010, which was endorsed by the Northern Ireland Executive, outlines ambitious and wide ranging plans for Northern Ireland’s energy future over the next decade. The Framework illustrates the key energy goals in terms of building competitive markets, ensuring security of supply, enhancing sustainability and developing our energy infrastructure.

"It contains new and challenging renewable energy targets, including 40% renewable electricity and 10% renewable heat by 2020 and also recognises that these will require substantial investment over the next decade.

"We are now 18 months into implementation of the Framework and significant progress has already been made towards these targets. However, many challenges still remain ahead, not least due to the fact that Northern Ireland is such a small region and, as energy is a world market issue, this leaves us subject to whatever fluctuations occur.

"It is also important to remember that my Department continues its work to develop the gas network extension as well as the Renewable Heat Incentive, the Carbon Price Floor and off-shore leasing to name but a few."

Fluctuating gas and electricity prices all impacted on local businesses, however, the Minister said there was now greater competition in both markets.

She continued: "I welcome the extension of the competitive market which has been in place for a number of years for larger business users of electricity, and I believe that the greater transparency provided by the Single Electricity Market has contributed to new suppliers entering the respective retail electricity markets.

"It is of course important for businesses to ensure they obtain the best possible terms for their energy supply, and I know that the Utility Regulator and Manufacturing NI have produced guidance on this, which I would encourage companies to use."

Concluding the Minister said that while she acknowledged that last year’s rises in gas and electricity prices were unwelcome, Northern Ireland, like the rest of the UK was somewhat at the mercy of world energy markets.

(CD)

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