More than one thousand wind turbines cannot be built because of issues with the electricity grid, the chairman of a government advisory panel said, on 28 November 2013.
David Surplus was briefing the Enterprise Committee on considerations around renewable energy.
He said that the “antiquated” grid was incapable of dealing with the power generated when wind turbines were working at maximum capacity.
Despite this, he said he remained confident solutions could be found, including “energy storage, demand management and smart grids” that would avoid the need for heavy expenditure to upgrade the grid.
Mr Surplus said that Northern Ireland could be a potential beneficiary of an “£8bn energy storage market” if it could lead innovation in the industry.
The Green Party’s Steven Agnew asked why Northern Ireland in particular could benefit.
Sam McCloskey of the Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy (CASE) said, “the opportunity is with the grid structure – we’re going to reach the problems before other countries – if we can act to find solutions to those problems first, we can export them when they face those problems”.
Officials from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) also briefed the committee on the subject of renewable energy.
The committee’s chairman, Patsy McGlone, asked whether limitations of the electricity grid and delays in connecting wind turbines would have an impact on the targets for renewable energy generation.
DETI official David Thompson said he remained “confident of meeting the target of 20% by 2015” but said “we’re committed to reviewing the 40% target next year”.
Mr McGlone asked why the grid’s capacity was not considered before the targets were set.
“The very first thing should’ve popped up was, can the grid handle it – it’s not rocket science,” he said.
Mr Thompson assured him that talks were ongoing with Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE).
The DETI officials also answered questions from the committee on support for small and medium businesses (SMEs).
The DUP’s Sammy Douglas asked whether they would meet their self imposed target of helping 50 SMEs this year.
Phil Rodgers, from DETI, said he remained confident that the target for the amount of investment would be met, but perhaps not the target for the number of businesses.
MLAs also discussed issues including the announcement from Finance Minister Simon Hamilton that the Executive would not provide funds to the Exploris aquarium, and the cost to the economy of workplace injuries and ill health.
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