UFU disappointed at NIE Networks

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union says NIE Networks could have communicated better with farmers when notifying them of changes to engineering standards on renewable energy installations.

The business has written to 1500 small-scale renewable generators about changes to what is known as the G59 protection setting on their installations. This is an engineering standard applied to all electricity generators to eliminate ‘nuisance tripping’ of circuits, for example. This is a simple change, provided relays can cope with the new setting. However, the UFU says communications have been poor, with farmers reporting that when contacting NIE Network, staff are not aware of the letters or what they mean for farmers. UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, says this has created unnecessary concern among farmers and has been frustrating to say the least.

The UFU says it is seeking assurances about fairness of treatment between farmers and other power generators, together with clarity as to the benefit of any changes to the small-scale renewable sector.

“We have been told that local power stations were incentivised to make the changes, whilst the wind farms will benefit from not having to curtail power,” said Mr Chestnutt adding that the financial consequences are significant. “This change could produce grid savings of up to £13 million, but with no obvious nor confirmed benefit to the smaller scale generators represented by the UFU.”

The UFU says this could be a dangerous precedent, with small-scale renewable generators hit by further retrospective, costly policy changes. The UFU is requesting a meeting with the Utility Regulator to discuss the issue further.