Source: Traditional Unionist Voice – Northern Ireland
Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“The fundamental questions raised in today’s Audit Office report into renewable energy demand serious attention. How did we ever arrive at a situation where generating stations did not require planning permission prior to being accredited to the NIRO? How did accredited wind and anaerobic digesters come to be accredited without being assessed for rates? Where was the joined up government which would have prevented this?
“How did off-grid developments come to feature within NIRO? Why was the legislation not more specific about permitted uses of the electricity generated, especially if it is not exported to the grid? Without this in place the report points out that some of those who received Renewables Obligation Certificates could be generating the power in a wasteful manner. While there is no suggestion of a scandal of the scale of RHI the parallels are clear to be seen.
“While it is clear that the Controller and Auditor General is an enthusiast for renewables it is telling that he nonetheless states that “the same results might have been achieved more efficiently, at less cost and with less impact on the local natural environment”. At a later point he adds that the impact on the local environment was “unforeseen”. For a so-called green initiative to “not take account of planning and environmental risks” is frankly staggering.
“It should have been a basic starting point in designing the NIRO scheme to ensure that there were formal partnership arrangements in place between the public bodies involved.
“The starting point of the report where Comptroller and Auditor General makes clear that he does not wish to be seen as being critical of the use of renewable sources which he sees as a process which benefits society should not blunt the significance of the serious shortcomings he uncovers. I find it hard to believe that he would qualify any other report in such terms
“It is also noteworthy that the scope of the report is limited and that there are notable omissions such as infrastructure costs and constraint payments. This is significant because when the report claims that the cost to Northern Ireland suppliers will be £1.25 billion to meet their renewable obligations he does not I believe include the Infrastructure costs to upgrade the Grid to take this level of variable power from connected wind farms or the noise mitigation which has been necessary or constraint payments, the amounts paid to energy providers when an excess of energy is being supplied to the grid.
“A comprehensive review of the whole renewable sector, its regulation and transmission and distribution systems is necessary in order for us to get a handle on the true cost of the 40% renewable energy target to the consumer.
“The Minister’s plan to publish an Energy Strategy by year end 2020 without publication of complete data surrounding the whole renewable sector and cost implications for the public and the consumer is foolish.
“Until there is a comprehensive review of the whole renewable sector, its regulation, and transmission and distribution systems, we are only getting a snippet of the true total cost of 40% renewable target to the consumer. The recent statement by the Diane Dodds to seek a minimum renewable energy target for NI of 70% renewables seems irresponsible in the context of the RHI scandal and now the newly revealed NIRO scandal.
“Before any energy strategy is published, these total costs to the consumer and the public purse should be investigated by the Audit Office so that The Energy Strategy for NI is founded on complete picture data without ‘green wash’.”