Northern Ireland Sets 40% by 2020 Renewable Energy Target

northern ireland coast photo

photo: Grace Smith via flickr

Some encouraging straight-talking ambition here: In a new policy document Northern Ireland has laid out a good renewable energy target of 40% by 2020. Which would be news enough, but in the text of Strategic Energy Framework for Northern Ireland there's some frank language worth paying attention to no matter where you live.Currently Northern Ireland obtains about 10% of its electricity from low-carbon sources, mainly onshore wind farms. This new report reveals a roadmap towards more full development of variety of on- and offshore renewable energy options over the next decade.

Natural Gas Remains a Big Part of Mix Past 2030
Even with 40% renewables the report notes, "It's likely that Northern Ireland will remain largely dependent on gas fired plants for baseload generation until at least 2030."

Which isn't as low-carbon as things could or should go, but so long as that 40% clean power is offsetting significant amounts of electricity currently generated by fossil fuels and isn't just powering new demand, that's all pretty good.

40% Renewables Will Increase Electricity Bills Up To £7/Month
As for how much this major renewable energy expansion is going to cost, the report says the necessary grid expansion alone has a price tag of £1 billion ($1.58 billion) and installing smart meters in all Northern Ireland households will cost £280 million ($443 million).

All in all, actual renewable power plants, smart metering and grid infrastructure improvements, is estimated to add £43-83 ($68-131) annually to power bills--only about £4-7 additional a month. Interestingly, BBC News' analyst says the total additional annual cost to consumers could be up to £100. In either case, not huge monthly increases.

The Cheap Energy Era Is Over... Get Used To It
Here's the straight-talking part I mentioned. The report bluntly states:

The era of cheap energy is past, and all consumers must realize that new infrastructure investment to facilitate renewables will face significant resource challenges. Failure to take action, on the other hand, would lock Northern Ireland into potentially even higher costs in the long term.

Perhaps that seems an innocuous statement, but when you hear renewable energy and climate change policy discussed in the United States, that level of directness--there is no more cheap energy and prices are going to rise, full stop, get used to it--is wholly refreshing.

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More on Renewable Energy:
California Approves New Renewable Energy Target: 33% by 2020 - Let's Hope It Stands Past November
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