“We’re all in this together” – Peter Hain

Another week, another two year funding package announced by the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, Peter Hain [should we be reading something into that 2-year time-frame? – Ed]. This time a �59million package, the Environment & Renewable Energy Fund, that will attempt to create a market for renewable energy in Northern Ireland. The BBC report focuses mainly on the 4,000 private home-owners that the government hope will avail of grants [of between 30-50% of the cost) to install renewable energy based heating systems. But, from the details in the NIO statement, most of the money appears to be heading elsewhere. Peter Hain also claims that the �59million will “leverage in the region of �300million in additional private sector investment in our renewables infrastructure”, although there is not the same level of detail on how that will happen.Perhaps worth noting this too, “At Government level, the fund will result in the Stormont Estate being powered by a new biomass plant..” [*ahem* – Ed]

The details of the funds to be made available, and where they are to be targetted

Full details of the Environment & Renewable Energy Fund:

The package will provide funding over the next two years in four key areas:

Research and Demonstration – �15.2 million

– A decisive switch to renewable fuel sources by the public sector.
– The creation of a world-class research facility providing a database of scientific, technical and financial information to support investment decision.
– The identification of improvements to the electricity grid to maximise renewable penetration.
– The creation of a market for renewable electricity and heat supported by flagship projects which demonstrate viability and encourage replication.
– An investigation of the potential of salt deposits within Northern Ireland to play an important role in the energy system.

Accelerated Deployment – �35million

– Provision of grant assistance to approximately 4000 private householders for the installation of renewable energy systems, targeting high energy users to maximise the impact of assistance, increasing the number of houses using renewables ten-fold.
– Installation of at least 600 solar hot water systems in social housing with preference to fuel poor households.
– Increase in the number of energy efficiency measures provided under the Warm Homes Scheme from 8,250 – 10,000.
– Enhancement of the support available to public sector organisations switching to renewables and ensuring that the Government estate makes use of renewable energy where possible.
– Purchase of 10 megawatts of renewable generation with the electricity it provides being used to help alleviate fuel poverty and the value of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) being reinvested in further renewable energy projects.

Building Market Capacity – �2.5million

– Encouragement for a co-operative approach to providing strategically located wood drying, storage and logistics facilities to support growers placing their product in identified markets.
– Co-operative provision of drilling equipment needed to access geothermal energy resources with the aim of reducing the capital costs of installation by up to 40%.
– Leveraging private sector investment to develop an energy services company market by providing long term contracts to supply 10 megawatts of renewable heat to the public sector, with a particular emphasis on rural schools.

Underpinning Knowledge – �6.5million

– Public outreach activities including information seminars, training courses, the production of a suite of literature on all aspects of sustainable energy; production of technical and best practice guides for installers, investors and householders.
– The creation, maintenance and publication of approved renewable energy equipment and installers listing for Northern Ireland.
– Development of interactive web resources to underpin the sustainability in energy theme; and the development of the renewable energy education programme to encompass both primary and post-primary schools in a curriculum-linked programme available to every school in Northern Ireland.

Other points of note from the statement by Peter Hain –

“This �59 million fund will help Northern Ireland harness the natural resources all around us to provide heat and power and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. – It will leverage in the region of �300million in additional private sector investment in our renewables infrastructure.”
At Government level, the fund will result in the Stormont Estate being powered by a new biomass plant, the integration of solar energy systems on other Government buildings, and enhanced energy efficiency measures in public sector buildings, with an emphasis on schools.
There will also be a unique programme of research into the potential for energy crops, waste and geothermal resources to generate heat and electricity.
An all-island assessment of the electricity grid infrastructure needs to accommodate renewables beyond 2025 will also be undertaken.
At a personal level, grants of between 30 – 50% to install renewable energy in private homes will allow the public to play its part, increasing the number of homes in Northern Ireland with renewable heat systems ten fold to approximately 4,000.
Solar hot water systems will be installed in hundreds of Northern Ireland Housing Executive homes, and the Warm Homes Scheme, which provides energy efficiency measures for those in fuel poverty, will receive more than �9million in additional funding, allowing 10,000 homes to be covered.
Peter Hain said: “People have asked me if what they do individually in our own homes can make a real difference to the environment. The answer to that is an emphatic yes – we’re all in this together.”