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Agri-Industry Pioneering For Low Carbon Future

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1 May 2019

With the Renewable Energy Sources for Electricity (RES-E) target set for 2020, latest figures show that 38% of the total annual electricity consumption in Northern Ireland is being generated from local renewable sources, meaning the region is on course to achieve the ambitious 40% target set.

NIE Networks, which has played a critical role in meeting the RES-E target by providing the connections for the renewable sources, is also forecasting an estimated 110,000 electric vehicles and more than 50,000 heat pumps will connect to the distribution network here by 2030. Launching the company’s presence at this year’s Balmoral Show, Paul Stapleton, Managing Director for NIE Networks, noted that the target would not have been achievable without the invaluable support of agricultural and rural based customers. “Carbon reduction targets, renewable energy, electric vehicles and heat pumps are placing new and increased demands on our network so at such a critical time for the energy industry it is very encouraging that we are on course to meet the RES-E target.

“Meeting the target wouldn’t have been possible though without the partnership of our customers, particularly those in the agricultural industry. Our statistics indicate that our rural based customers here are generating the equivalent of a large power station worth of renewable energy which is a remarkable contribution.” Climate change legislation has created significant growth in Low Carbon Technologies and in turn major change is required in how the electricity industry manages and operates the network. Currently operating as a Distribution Network Operator NIE Networks is responsible for the distribution of electricity from the transmission grid to homes, businesses and farms.“

However, the network, which was designed to facilitate the flow of electrical energy towards the customer, is now experiencing significant energy flows in the opposite direction. Consequently the company is set to evolve into a Distribution System Operator facilitating a low carbon future for Northern Ireland and placing downward pressure on electricity bills. Paul Stapleton, continued; “We still have work to do and our Innovation Strategy is about meeting the low-carbon future challenge head on by seeking to provide, faster, cheaper and smarter connection solutions.

“We want to hear from our stakeholders and customers on exactly how our future model and operating structures will evolve and so we are seeking their views through our current consultation which remains open until 20th May. “Critically these changes will incentivise customers to manage their demand and bring new opportunities by facilitating those who want to be prosumers - customers who wish to consume, produce and be flexible with their energy.” Further information about the ‘Greater Access to the Distribution Network’ Consultation can be found in Future Networks.