Generating Electricity from Renewable Energy - a report from the Public Accounts Committee

View of wind turbines phorographed at sunset

 

The Public Accounts Committee has published a report into the Renewable Energy Scheme.The report looks at the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO) scheme and whether it provided value for money. 


This committee is has the widest remit of all Assembly Committees as it looks at the way Government Departments implement policies, strategies, and programmes. It also carries out inquiries into Government spending.


 Renewable Energy Scheme

The Renewable Energy Scheme was introduced in 2005 by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI). It was then continued by the Department for the Economy (DfE). While the scheme closed to new applicants in 2016, it continued to accredit new generating stations until 2018.

 

Based the amount of electricity generated from a renewable source like wind. The scheme gives financial support to investors and owners of accredited generating stations. This financial support lasts for twenty years, from the accreditation date of each generating station.

 

Findings of the Report

The scheme met and exceeded its primary objective of encouraging the generation and consumption of electricity that comes from renewable energy sources. Approximately 49% of all electricity consumed in Northern Ireland now comes from renewable energy sources. However, it is not clear that this was achieved at the lowest cost to the consumer.

 

There were also negative unintended planning and environmental consequences that went unmanaged until 2018. A lack of joined up thinking and formal engagement between DETI and other key public bodies before introducing the NIRO scheme mean that planning and environmental risks were not identified until after the scheme had begun, making these more difficult to manage.

 

The Committee also found that the local scheme did not include some of the cost controls that featured in other similar scheme in Great Britain, something that could lead to overgenerous financial support to small-scale renewable electricity generators.

 

The report will be sent to the Department for the Economy and includes eight recommendations. You can read the report in full on the Assembly website by following this link.

 

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