Last week the UFU attended a research and innovation workshop for the new round of INTERREG funding at the Playhouse Theatre in Londonderry.
Subject to a funding application being successful, this could be the first step in progressing the development of alternative ways of integrating small scale renewables to farming businesses in Northern Ireland.
Two days later DETI launched a consultation on proposals for closure of the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO) to new small scale (<250kW) onshore wind projects. This is against a backdrop of a UFU/Simple Power against DETIs original two week consultation which closed on 14 October 2015. This is a six week consultation and closes on 9 May 2016. This follows the recent DETI decision to close the NIRO to large scale onshore wind projects from 1 April 2016.
DETI have presented three options for the closure of the NIRO for small scale onshore wind.
Option 1 – Close on 30 June 2016
The NIRO will close to new projects on 30 June 2016. Projects will receive the (UK) NIRO if they meet the 30 September 2015 “approved development criteria” and are commissioned and accredited by 31 March 2017. Option 1 provides a Grace Period for approved eligible projects who are affected by grid or radar delays and will apply until 31 March 2018. In addition there will be an Investment Freeze Grace period until 31 March 2019. Please note that this something that the UFU called for. Under this option, DETI do not expect DECC in London to activate “backstop powers”, meaning there will be no restrictive NI-specific ROCs.
Option 2 – Close on 30
The NIRO will close to new projects on 30 September 2016. Projects will receive the (UK) NIRO if they meet the 30 September 2015 “approved development criteria” and are commissioned and accredited by 31 March 2017. Option 2 provides a grid/radar delay Grace Period for eligible projects until 31 March. Investment Freeze Grace Period until 31 March 2019. In the consultation, DETI have stated their concern that by keeping the NIRO open for an extra three months as stipulated in Option2, DECC may activate backstop powers and create new NI ROCs post 1 April 2016 in this instance which would restrict GB suppliers from redeeming NIROCs and affecting their tradability.
Option 3 - Close on 31 March 2017
The NIRO will close on 31 March 2017, with an additional one year grace period for grid connections where there are grid/radar issues. However, if Option 3 is implemented, DECC will activate backstop powers. Projects which do not meet 30 September 2015 “approved development criteria” will have their ROCs classed as new “NI ROCs”, which has the potential to have an adverse impact for all ROCs. The implications too risky for existing renewable projects.
DETI are recommending Option 1 and in light of the threat of any activation of backstop powers by DECC in London we would agree.
Future Support for Small Scale Renewables
When we met with DETI officials on 7 March, it was confirmed that there will be a further consultation later in the year, this time looking at future support for small scale renewables. Whilst it is clear that it will not be subsidised support as seen previously, it will be an opportunity for the UFU to formally present our line of thinking as to how we believe the future small scale renewables sector will look and should be supported in Northern Ireland.