Muir: Full financial transparency needed over future schemes

Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has said full financial transparency is needed over future renewable energy schemes after a report into generating electricity from renewable energy was unable to determine if one was delivered at the lowest cost to the consumer.

The Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation scheme was introduced in 2005 by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to financially support the electricity renewables industry. A report by the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee found while the scheme met and exceeded its primary objective of incentivising the generation and consumption of electricity generated from renewable energy sources, it is not clear it was achieved or delivered at the lowest cost to the consumer.

The report also found ‘negative unintended planning and environmental consequences’ of the scheme which went unmanaged for years.

“Renewable energy is a good thing – moving away from fossil fuels must be our priority as we face into the climate crisis,” said Mr Muir, a member of the Committee.

“But it was surprising to discover the lack of certainty over whether the scheme was delivered at the lowest cost to the consumer. Therefore any future schemes must have their cost details up front before any finances are handed over.

“It is deeply concerning public money can be used without being sure value for money is being achieved. Full transparency is needed in future alongside ensuring any initiative or scheme in receipt of financial support also have all the necessary statutory approvals including, for example, Planning Permission.”