Mapping a path to Net Zero for Northern Ireland

Erin Savage, Head of the Energy Strategy Team within Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy, gave the first keynote presentation on the second day of IHEEM’s joint Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland conference in Dublin. She used her talk to discuss Northern Ireland’s recently published new energy strategy, Path to Net Zero Energy, its key themes, and the key short, medium, and longer-term objectives enshrined in it.

Erin Savage was introduced by IHEEM’s Northern Ireland Branch Chair, Steven Johnston. She began by explaining that her presentation would focus on Path to Net Zero Energy – Northern Ireland’s new energy strategy. This, she explained, ‘sets out the pathway to 2030 that’s going to mobilise the skills, technologies, and behaviours needed to take us towards our vision of Net Zero carbon, and affordable energy, by 2050’. She said: “In doing so, we will make a major contribution to the Climate Change Committee’s pathway to Net Zero carbon by 2050, and also the Northern Ireland Green Growth Strategy.” She explained that she would give delegates an overview of how the province had reached this point, run through some of the Energy Strategy’s main themes, and move on to the Action Plan for 2022. 

A UK ‘green first’

The ‘context for energy’ had ‘changed substantially’ since the 2010 Strategic Energy Framework was published. In June 2019; the UK had become the first major world economy to commit to a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – the Net Zero target representing what Erin Savage dubbed ‘a step-change in the commitment to addressing the climate crisis’. The first step in the development of the new (Northern Irish) Energy Strategy had been a call for evidence published in December 2019, which set out the key issues for consideration – including the role of the consumer, energy efficiency, energy for heat, power, and transport, and ‘others’ – such as security of supply, data, the economy, and new skills and technologies. Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy had then hosted five public stakeholder workshops focused on these key themes, attended by around 280 people, including individuals from consumer groups, academia, the energy industry, and government departments. In all, over 160 responses were received; these had been shared with five working groups, who took forward the analysis and the review.

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