NI: Energy lawyer calls for planning law reform to bring down renewable electricity prices

NI: Energy lawyer calls for planning law reform to bring down renewable electricity prices

Richard Murphy

Planning law reforms could help reduce the price of renewable electricity in Northern Ireland, a prominent energy lawyer has said.

Richard Murphy, partner at Pinsent Masons and head of the international law firm’s Irish energy group, today called on the Northern Ireland Executive to take action to help cut the price of green energy.

In his keynote address to the Northern Ireland Energy Forum, he pointed out that nearly 48 per cent of total electricity consumption in Northern Ireland is now generated from renewable sources.

The Executive is currently developing a new energy strategy which is expected to contain an ambitious new renewable electricity target for Northern Ireland.

Mr Murphy told the Forum that a key component to pushing down the price of renewable electricity in Northern Ireland will be the introduction of renewable electricity auctions, where each wind or solar farm or example bids a price and only the projects that offer the best value make it into the support scheme.

However, he urged the Executive to also consider other practical policy steps and actions that must also be taken to help reduce costs, including reforms to planning law.

The planning system and processes must allow for allows for taller wind turbines to be installed and an increased operating life of such projects under planning permissions, he said. For instance, wind farms are normally granted planning permission for 20 years but in practice last much longer.

Mr Murphy said: “We have made fantastic progress to date with renewable electricity in Northern Ireland. We need to ensure that continues under the New Energy Strategy. Introducing competitive auctions and making the right policy choices to create a supportive environment will be key to further driving down costs.

“If we get these policy choices right, we will deliver renewable electricity at the lowest possible cost to the NI consumer and help support further significant investment and local job creation in Northern Ireland as we look to build on the success to date of our clean energy sector.”

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