Northern Irish energy strategy sets target for net zero

Out-Law News | 21 Dec 2021 | 1:06 pm | 2 min. read

The Northern Ireland government has set three targets in a bid to develop a greener, more efficient energy future for the country with the ultimate aim of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Path to Net Zero Energy strategy document (57 page / 3.4MB PDF) sets three key targets for Northern Ireland to reach: delivering energy savings of 25% from buildings and industry by 2030; meeting at least 70% of electricity consumption from a diverse mix of renewable sources by 2030; and doubling the size of its low carbon and renewable energy economy to a turnover of more than £2 billion by 2030.

“The energy transition is taking place at a global level, with the development of new technologies, solutions and markets. This new energy strategy for Northern Ireland will ensure that we can prepare for these changes and adapt in the most efficient way to change that will happen,” said energy law expert Richard Murphy of Pinsent Masons.

“It will help create significant local market opportunities across an energy system based on efficient and low carbon networks, technologies, buildings, vehicles, industry and infrastructure. Delivering the necessary investment will of course require multiple policy levers and the right market frameworks to come forward during the lifetime of the strategy,” Murphy said.

The government said energy accounted for almost 60% of Northern Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. It said investment in clean energy could deliver ‘substantial’ economic benefits and position Northern Irish companies to compete on a global level in the area of low carbon technologies.

Murphy Richard

Richard Murphy


Delivering the necessary investment will of course require multiple policy levers and the right market frameworks to come forward during the lifetime of the strategy

The three targets are backed up by five key principles. The government said it wanted to make energy simple for everyone in society and protect consumers through the energy transition.

By growing the green economy, the strategy aims to create new jobs and skills through innovation, support and focusing on Northern Ireland’s competitive strengths.

Efficiency is also listed as a key principle, with the aim of doing more with less by setting targets, standards and regulations which drive improvements in energy efficiency.

Fossil fuels will be replaced with renewable energy generated domestically, supported by sustainable renewable imports to decarbonise heat, power and transport.

Finally, the government said it would create a flexible, smart and digitised energy system that integrates renewables across heat, power and transport, creates value for consumers and enhances security of supply.

The strategy is supported by a roadmap for 21 ‘policies and enablers’ to help transform Northern Ireland’s energy landscape. However, the government acknowledged the pathway beyond 2030 was unclear, and it has put forward two possible scenarios for the future – one driven primarily by electrification and one by more diverse energy solutions including biofuels and hydrogen.

The government said it would publish more detailed policy proposals in a number of areas, subject to consultation and engagement in their own right, to help deliver the strategy. It is also due to publish a targeted action plan in the near future to outline initial priorities and key supporting actions planned to March 2023.

The government also promised to set up a ‘one stop shop’ that will act as the focal point for consumers, as well as identify where new energy legislation is required.

The strategy will be monitored on an annual basis, with the first progress report expected for the period ending March 2023. A major strategic update review will also take place every five years, with the first in 2025, with targets being reviewed and updated as necessary.

The publication of the Northern Irish net zero strategy comes soon after the UK government published its net zero strategy document in October 2021.