NIRIG's Meabh Cormacain sets the scene for Smart Energy NI 2019, which takes place on 10th April in Belfast.
On 11th January this year, the equivalent of 80% of electricity demand on the island of Ireland was met by wind energy. This phenomenal figure was reached by hitting the max of 65% wind on the system in Ireland and exporting the remainder through interconnectors. With excellent wind resources and world-leading system operation, Northern Ireland now expects to hit our 40% renewable electricity target ahead of its 2020 schedule. Not only that, but we’ve done it while paying back to consumers.
For ten years we have been guided by an ambitious government target and a comprehensive energy framework. In that ten years, we’ve experienced the same challenges and opportunities as the rest of the UK and Ireland: planning changes, costly grid connections, the removal of support, massive cost reductions, exciting new technologies and political uncertainty. A target and a strategy kept us moving forward, although in recent years we’ve faltered due to an absence of vision and a vacuity of political representation.
With the global climate, air quality and clean growth at stake, however, there’s little question of where we need to go next. The Paris Accord forces us to plan even more ambitious decarbonisation, and the Committee on Climate Change picks up this baton to present specific recommendations on heat, transport and housing across the UK. Decarbonisation is inevitable, but who is responsible, and how do we ensure that we all continue to benefit from clean growth?
NIRIG’s Smart Energy programme responds to the new challenges and opportunities facing the energy industry. This year we have gathered a team of experts to discuss our future energy strategy to 2030 and the coordination required to deliver the next phase of the energy transition. As well as growing renewable electricity, we have to accelerate decarbonisation in heat and transport, bringing together disparate stakeholders to deliver the low-carbon economy.
Smart Energy will address the role of cities, councils, planners and regulators. We’ll hear from experts who think transport and act electric, analysts who crunch the numbers on renewables, and the key policy-makers responsible for preparing and planning for a decarbonised energy sector. From the global to the local, we must collaborate and coordinate to ensure that no-one is left behind.