Transforming how we power our economy and lifestyles

Pictured launching the Northern Ireland summit are (from left) Keith Morrison, project director at Transmission Investment; Alan Campbell, managing director at SONI; Mike Brennan, permanent secretary at the Department for the Economy; Ronan McKeown, customer and market services director at NIE Networks; Trevor Haslett, chairman of CASE; Martin Doherty, centre manager at CASE; Micaela Diver, partner at A&L Goodbody; and Mark Stockdale, partner at A&L Goodbody
Martin Doherty

THE fact that change must happen when it comes to how we produce, store, and use energy is absolutely undeniable, not only for us here in Northern Ireland but right across the globe. We need to remove fossil fuels from our energy mix, and it needs to be done both rapidly, and thoughtfully.

That’s why the Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy (CASE) is hosting the first Northern Ireland Energy Summit on June 21 at the ICC in Belfast, where we will present our policy document ‘Pathway to a Renewable Future’.

This document, which is being produced after a comprehensive stakeholder outreach process will showcase what we believe is a holistic and inclusive transformative change process that equips us for the economy of 2050 rather than simply de-fossilising the present.

After an encouraging start, Northern Ireland seems to have rested on its laurels and is allowing others to steal a march on progress to a net zero future. The ambition of the 10X strategy for economic growth produced by the Department for the Economy is not supported by our energy plans. In fact, the goals for wind generation of GB and Ireland dwarf current Northern Ireland policy considerations. We must match our near neighbours’ ambitious goals to amplify and leverage our own potential.

However, government departments are seriously hampered in their ability to take plans forward by the simple fact that the Assembly has been out of action for four of the last six years.

Nevertheless, the passing of the Climate Change Act in 2022 demonstrated that there is a political willingness to see a transformation in how we power our economy and lifestyles.

The ability to make decisions in a bold, ambitious, and pragmatic manner is possible, as demonstrated by the actions of the NI Executive during the recent pandemic. This ‘whole of government’ approach to managing a national crisis is again required to overcome the disjointedness that energy developers, businesses and communities see when attempting to effect change.

The Climate Change Act mandates that government departments act in a connected manner, so theoretically the tools are at our disposal. Energy and decarbonisation cuts across all government departments. Creating policy in isolation can result in missed opportunities to holistically address a larger scale problem. Joined up policy succeeds.

The simple fact is our economy will struggle both to compete as global markets demand zero-carbon supply chains and to sustain carbon taxes as they ramp up by the end of the decade unless we transform our energy supply and decarbonise.

A critical component of delivering the necessary societal change will be increasing the carbon literacy of people on the ground. This will empower decision makers and communities to ensure that energy transformation is equitable and a force for the better.

There will be impacts in terms of infrastructure development, but we can ensure that they are weighted by greater community wealth and opportunity with the potential to eradicate fuel poverty.

This opportunity can’t be wasted so let’s ensure we move forward together. To be part of the conversation, you can book a place at the Northern Ireland Energy Summit at

:: Martin Doherty is centre manager at the Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy (CASE)