Priming Northern Ireland’s renewable sector for growth


There can be few more important sectors at present than renewable energy.

Whether solar, wind, tidal, hydrogen or other, the ability for Northern Ireland to successfully adopt these technologies and transition to a low carbon environment in the coming years is critical to the province’s ability to maintain a globally competitive edge in the future.

Luckily for the local economy, we have made huge strides in renewables in the last 20 years by developing a swath of generation projects and fully embracing the move away from fossil fuels. Crucially, the expertise we have built up in developing renewable technology is second to none, with industry collaborating with academia to become a world leading renewables innovator.

The high regard with which the sector is held within the wider investment community is evidenced by the fact there is considerable volume of funding from London and across Europe ready to back the right projects here. 

That enthusiasm to invest, both by operators and funds, was particularly apparent when the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation scheme was in operation and, while it tapered in the immediate aftermath, the changing macro environment has reignited the fervour. A spike in wholesale energy prices and a renewed focus on security of supply prompted by the war in Ukraine has furthered the investment case for locally produced energy. 

Most importantly, as well as having the skill and investment to further build out the sector, Northern Ireland also has abundant natural resource, whether that be in the form of wind, tide, sun or other, which can be harnessed.

Combined, the potential is huge and will undoubtedly be realised in time to meet the target of net zero carbon by 2050. Perhaps more urgent is the removal of a few roadblocks which are making the nearer term goal, of ensuring 80% of all electricity produced in Northern Ireland is from renewable sources by 2030, appear elusive.

Upgrades to the grid are needed to accommodate a more dispersed generation. Government, both locally and in Westminster, needs to introduce new subsidies to incentivise the private sector to expedite renewable projects; and the planning system needs to treat applications for renewable projects with urgency they deserve.

With a collaborative approach, the aim to create a world leading renewables sector in Northern Ireland is eminently achievable. Admittedly we are slightly behind the curve, but can use the learnings from our nearest neighbours in the Republic and in Great Britain to our advantage.

We can also use the opportunity presented by the Energy Summit next month to share best practise and strategies across the sector’s full stakeholder group about the best way forward. The summit couldn’t come at a more apt time and will bring together critical thinking and experience of the highest calibre, as well as policy makers capable of enacting change in a timely fashion.

As a law firm firmly embedded in the renewable sector and a sponsor of the summit, A&L Goodbody will be playing a key part in the discussion. The discourse and debate will be a vital steppingstone and we look forward to hearing from others about how we supercharge this region’s journey to net zero, and beyond.