Northern Ireland witnessed a substantial reduction in gas expenditure by £243 million in 2023, thanks to robust local wind energy generation, as unveiled in Wind Energy Ireland's Annual Report and scrutinized by energy specialists Baringa in their report, “Cutting Carbon Cutting Bills: Analysis of gas savings delivered by wind farms in 2023.”
Baringa's analysis underscores that the absence of wind energy would have compelled Northern Ireland to allocate an additional £176 million for gas procurement, predominantly from imports, and an extra £68 million for carbon credits associated with gas combustion for power generation. It is estimated that Northern Ireland's wind turbines curtailed approximately 920,000 tonnes of carbon emissions last year, equivalent to the output from 200,000 households.
According to the most recent data from the Department for the Economy's report on Electricity Consumption and Renewable Generation in Northern Ireland (Year Ending September 2023), 47.4% of the total electricity consumption in the region was derived from renewable sources. Notably, 83.8% of this renewable energy was harnessed from wind.
Steven Agnew, Director of RenewableNI, emphasized the positive impact of past investments in renewable energy, stating that Northern Ireland managed to diminish its reliance on fossil fuels in 2023. However, Agnew expressed concern over the stagnation in sector investments, highlighting a mere 86MW of large-scale generation connected in the current decade, compared to 400MW in 2016.
He cited the global perception of Northern Ireland as an unattractive investment location for renewables, pointing out that the region has attracted minimal capital despite a global influx of over $350 billion into renewable infrastructure investments in the first half of the previous year.
Agnew lamented the lack of progress since the passing of the Climate Bill two years ago, which established a legal obligation for 80% renewable generation by 2030. He identified persistent challenges such as planning timelines, grid investment, and barriers to market access as hindrances to further development in the renewable energy sector.