Action plan will lead to more affordable energy, economy minister says
A new energy strategy for Northern Ireland will create jobs and lead to lower costs for consumers, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has said.
The minister was speaking as he launched a 22-point action plan for the Path to Net Zero Energy strategy and as NIE Networks announced 110 new jobs aligned to the strategy.
The action plan follows last month’s publication of the Path to Net Zero Energy which outlined a road map to deliver a 56% reduction in Northern Ireland’s energy-related emissions by 2030 and a pathway to deliver the 2050 vision of net zero carbon and affordable energy.
It includes a number of new initiatives including a £10 million green innovation fund, a hydrogen centre of excellence and one-stop shop for energy advice.
Mr Lyons said: “We will take an energy efficiency-first approach which will help consumers reduce the energy they use and therefore minimise their energy bills.
“The action plan maps out the best route to ensuring people will live and work in more energy efficient buildings, whilst helping some of the most vulnerable in society to live in warmer homes, reduce ill health and ultimately save lives.
“We understand people need information, advice and financial support to make some of these changes, particularly with affordability in mind, and we will ensure that the appropriate help is available.”
Meanwhile, NIE Networks announced that it would be creating at least 110 jobs, with an additional £50 million investment in the electricity network with opportunities for engineers, designers, apprentices and operational posts.
It is part of an investment which will focus on the rollout of clean energy infrastructure.
Mr Lyons said: “I’m delighted and encouraged that NIE Networks is investing in our energy future.
“As we progress on the route laid out by the Path to Net Zero Energy, we can expect to see further investments in clean energy which will create real economic opportunities on the ground for our businesses and people.
“We are aiming to double the size of our low carbon and renewable energy economy.
“This will create the jobs of the future and we will work to ensure everyone has the skills and training needed to benefit from this.”
Paul Stapleton, of NIE Networks, said: “The electricity network sits at the heart of Northern Ireland’s journey towards net zero carbon emissions and is a central component of economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The creation of these 110 jobs and our investment in the additional skills we develop at NIE Networks in the next few years will help Northern Ireland reach those aims and supercharge green growth in the years ahead.”
John French, chief executive of the Utility Regulator, said: “We have a real opportunity to build a low carbon future by investing prudently in electricity infrastructure in Northern Ireland.
“This announcement represents an important milestone in taking practical, tangible steps to deliver on net zero.
“This investment will assist us in meeting the NI Executive’s targets for net zero by increasing renewable generation and the adoption of low carbon technologies by consumers across Northern Ireland.”