The planning system has a key role to play in facilitating Northern Ireland’s clean energy transition. That was the message delivered at the latest Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry Energy Forum event, held today at the MAC, Belfast.
The Energy Forum series, hosted in partnership with SONI, the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland brings together business representatives and industry experts to explore the issues of the day relating to energy matters and the decarbonisation of the Northern Ireland economy.
Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly CB was the keynote speaker at today’s event, providing over 100 attendees with an overview of the Northern Ireland Audit Office’s recent report into the planning system and its key recommendations. Industry leaders Tamasin Fraser (UK Director, ABO Wind), Gary McGhee (Partner, Carson McDowell) and Steven Agnew (Head of Renewable NI) then participated in a panel discussion exploring the challenges and opportunities facing the renewable energy sector.
Alongside the importance of the planning system, other topics discussed included climate change legislation, renewable electricity targets, attracting foreign direct investment and establishing a supportive policy environment for the sector.
Natasha Sayee, Head of External Communications and Engagement at SONI said:
“At SONI we recently published the Shaping Our Electricity Future Roadmap, which sets the pathway to the decarbonisation of the power system in Northern Ireland.
“In preparing the roadmap we undertook our biggest public consultation ever, and we are now delivering on its outcomes by putting collaboration at the heart of our approach.
“We are delighted to continue our partnership with NI Chamber and its members create a forum for informed debate focused on solutions and innovative thinking which will drive the energy transition.”
Stuart Anderson, Head of Public Affairs at the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry added:
“Our members have found great value in the Energy Forum series supported by SONI, and with energy being such an important topic we’re pleased to be facilitating discussions on these key issues.
“It is clear from today’s event that the planning system is going to play a central role if Northern Ireland is to achieve its renewable electricity targets and achieve greater levels of clean, indigenous energy generation.
“This will be a priority focus for the Chamber and we will continue to work closely with our members as well as the Department for Infrastructure and local planning authorities to ensure we have a system that helps to facilitate development and attract investment in Northern Ireland’s renewable energy sector.
“This in turn will create employment opportunities, economic growth and is essential if we are to meet our climate change ambitions.”