Wind power and marine energy in Northern Ireland

Rates of support for offshore wind energy will reduce as the cost of the technology comes down during the decade.

Energy Minister, Arlene Foster today announced the banding levels for support under the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO) which will come into operation on 1 April 2013.

The NIRO is the government’s mechanism for incentivising renewable electricity in Northern Ireland and is complimented by the Renewables Obligation for England and Wales and the Renewables Obligation Scotland.

The levels announced today are for the period 2013-2017 and follow a UK-wide Banding Review and public consultation across all three Renewables Obligations (RO).

As part of a UK-wide review, the consultation sought views on a number of proposals to amend the levels of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) to new generating stations from 1 April 2013.

Arlene Foster said “The Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation has contributed to an increasing amount of electricity generated from renewable sources.

“Since its introduction in 2005, renewable electricity generation has increased from a baseline of 3% to 14% for the year ending March 2012. The new banding levels from 1 April 2013 are intended to ensure continued growth in renewable energy whilst minimising the cost to the consumer.”

The focus of the banding changes is on large scale renewables (above 5 megawatts) with the majority of changes applying across all three ROs. UK-wide changes include:

* A 10% reduction for large-scale onshore wind to 0.9 ROCs;

* Rates of support for offshore wind energy will reduce as the cost of the technology comes down during the decade;

* Support levels for certain marine energy technologies will more than double from 2 ROCs to 5 ROCs per MWh, subject to a 30MW limit per generating station.

In addition to UK-wide banding changes, the consultation response confirms that, under the NIRO, support for electricity generated from landfill gas will continue to be supported at 1 ROC.

However, the proposal to increase support for solar photovoltaic panels up to 10kW from 4 ROCs to 5 ROCs will not be implemented due to significant reductions in the costs of this technology. Commenting on this decision, Arlene Foster said: “It is important that ROC subsidies take account of any decreases or increases in technology costs. Solar photovoltaic costs have decreased significantly since the NIRO consultation was published last October and the additional 1 ROC support is therefore no longer required.”