Hard Brexit: Northern Ireland May Need Thousands of Generator Barges to Keep the Lights On

CC BY-ND 2.0. Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916

It turns out leaving the EU is quite hard. Who knew?

Yesterday, I posted that the Republic of Ireland had voted to divest all public money from fossil fuels. News in Northern Ireland—which is still part of the United Kingdom—may be less rosy.

At least, that's if a "hard Brexit" (aka "no deal") happens.

According to leaked government documents seen by the Financial Times, and also reported by The Guardian, emergency plans are being drawn up to power the region using "thousands" of barges carrying fossil fuel-powered electricity generators.

The reason the plans are being drawn up is that Northern Ireland has been operating on a shared single energy market with the Republic to the South since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The only reason that market was possible was the UK's membership as part of the European Union (EU) and now—with some committed Brexiteers pushing for as clean a break with the EU as possible—we could end up in a situation where the cooperation is cut off, and Northern Ireland will have to fend for itself.

Needless to say, business interests in the region are not happy. Conor Patterson, chief executive of the Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency, told The Guardian that it was "potty" (translation: nuts) and "apocalyptic". It would also, I would imagine, be a complete disaster for the environment, given that such generators tend to run on diesel or gas.

Now, imagine if Northern Ireland had state-of-the-art energy efficient buildings, a robust, smart system of interconnected microgrids, ample distributed energy generation and battery storage too. I'd imagine there's probably some European Union grant money to help fund such a system. Oh dear...