A Sustainable Energy Update

George Osborne’s recent budget and lack of Green Energy Support has caused some concern in the Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Market, specifically in the announced Carbon Price Freeze. However, while this policy does not relates to Northern Ireland and has no impact on the Northern Irish Sustainable Energy Sector the budget does seem like a sensible point to review the sector and see how it is performing.

Reviewing the Sustainable Energy Sector has been made easy and transparent by a website called Variable Pitch, http://www.variablepitch.co.uk/. Every sustainable energy project in Northern Ireland which has taken ROCs (Renewable Energy Certificates) Payments have their accounts indicated on this website for both the industry and most importantly the public to see. This is a free service and should be the first point of call for those who have entered the market or those hoping to do so. While all the information on the website appears to be accurate unfortunately it can be complicated to work out how to get to the required financial figures. Once found the figures are very revealing in their honesty and make for interesting reading.

The two main sectors for the Northern Irish farming industry are Anaerobic Digestion and Wind. Anaerobic Digestion has had a bad press in recent years due to rumours about a number of high profile plants underperforming. With ‘Variable Pitch’ any underperformance can not be hidden. While most of the plants in Northern Ireland are not achieving the promised figures there is one plant that is outputting at an average of over 92% capacity factor, the UK average is 67%. The 500kw ‘WIS’ plant in Ardstraw had a turnover last year of £919,786.49. These are not figures from the technology supplier but rather are automatically updated from Ofgem and as such should be accurate. These levels of return have re-invigorated the sector and opened the eyes of doubters to the potential of this technology in Northern Ireland, when it is done correctly. WIS are currently commissioning their second plant and it will be interesting to see how it compares.

The information on the wind sector is probably even more revealing, rather than under performing 2013 appears to have been a great year for those with wind turbines. Turbines on poor sites of less than 6.5m/s were still producing more than £70,000.00 a year. This confidence in the sector is feeding through to the rental figures which are being offered. The highest offer we have heard recently was £50,000.00 upfront and a £25,000.00 yearly rental; however, this was for a very good site with a 250kw turbine on a 40 meter tower approved and a low unconditional grid offer. Even the bigger companies which stubbornly refused to raise their rentals have started to increase them in light of the financial data from the existing turbines.

It is a shame that this kind of data was not available 3 years ago; it may have stopped a number of farmers installing an unsuitable AD plant or getting a less than reasonable rental offer from a turbine developer. It also may have seen the local banks more willing to lend farmers money for sustainable energy schemes rather than them having to use high interest finance from London. For anyone already with an approval feel free to contact us to discuss your next move, 2020 Architects offer a free service looking at approved sites and helping to negotiate leases with developers. If you are interested in developing a site on your land the window for doing so is closing quickly as the incentives only last in their current form until 2017 as such do not hesitate to contact us.