Changing our ways
1st October 2009
Going nuclear
1st October 2009

The parties bright ideas

A summary of energy policies advocated by parties represented in the Assembly. Portfolios of Ministers and spokesmen cover the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, and the Republic’s Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.


Minister: Arlene Foster MLA

Spokesman: David Simpson MP MLA

A “massive” investment in energy, among other forms of infrastructure, is prioritised in the DUP’s 2007 Assembly manifesto. The party supports a British Isles-wide electricity market to deliver competitive energy prices and wants to see the province become a centre of excellence for renewable energy, especially to benefit farmers who can grow biofuel crops. Energy efficiency is backed as a cost-effective part of a drive to tackle climate change. Lower fuel duty is also proposed.

Its European manifesto elaborates on this by backing cavity walls and improved loft insulation for local homes, and again restating a commitment to renewables. In the 2005 Westminster campaign, the DUP pledged that it wanted to see the Warm Homes Scheme “further advanced and improved as we seek to eliminate fuel poverty and ensure everyone has a warm and comfortable home.”

The Single Electricity Market was planned under direct rule and launched by Nigel Dodds in November 2007. DUP Ministers have also overseen the review of the Strategic Energy Framework (see pages 40-41 of this edition) and ended the Reconnect renewable energy grants scheme in March 2008, as originally envisaged. They have also updated building regulations and issued Planning Policy Statement 18, both to allow for more renewable energy.


Spokesman: Leslie Cree MLA

In its 2007 Assembly manifesto, the UUP supported opening up the European single market to the energy market and advocated liberalised markets as a pathway towards greater energy security.

The party also seeks to publish an energy conservation strategy for Northern Ireland’s economy which would reduce its carbon footprint. It claims that would identify savings for businesses of £15 million per year in energy costs.

A new planning statement is mooted which would require 10 per cent of energy needs for new developments to come from on-site renewables, which would highlight Northern Ireland’s commitment to renewables.

The party would also provide funding to the Energy Saving Trust’s transport advice services, as is the case in the rest of the UK.

Sinn Féin

Assembly Spokesman: Mitchel McLaughlin MLA

Oireachtas Spokesman: Martin Ferris TD

An all-island energy market is a practical example of Irish unity’s benefits, according to Sinn Féin. Its Assembly manifesto describes dealing with energy and similar issues on an “integrated all- Ireland basis” as the most efficient response to the infrastructure deficit.

“We are also committed to vigorously promoting energy efficiency and alternative renewable energy”, it states. “Aggressively accelerating” renewable energy would be the responsibility of an all-Ireland Renewable Energy Commission.

Nuclear energy is firmly opposed. The party also has a strong commitment to the social economy’s renewable energy production, and backs farm diversification into renewables.

Sinn Féin also proposed a cross- departmental ministerial task force on fuel poverty, which has been set up by SDLP Margaret Ritchie. Fuel poverty must be ‘eradicated’ within a specific time frame and renewable energy is seen as central to the solution.

Similar commitments are made in its Dáil election manifesto, which indeed goes further by requiring all new social housing to be fitted with “energy-efficient alternative energy sources”.

Ireland’s reliance on foreign energy supplies is criticised and energy independence set as a goal, with a view to the island becoming a net exporter of renewable power.

During the European campaign, Sinn Féin saw energy efficiency work as a way to support the construction trade and create new jobs – an echo of the Green New Deal.

In government, Michelle Gildernew has promoted renewable energy in DARD and opened a renewable energy unit, which was originally proposed under direct rule. Conor Murphy is also reviewing the Regional Development Strategy to include more references to sustainable and renewable energy use.

Alliance Party

Spokesman: Sean Neeson MLA

Alliance’s focus since 2005 has centred on sustainable energy, emphasising energy efficiency and decreasing the usage of non-renewable resources. It also aims to promote education among consumers about the “true economic and environmental costs of their consumption”.

The party also targets inefficiency and conservation. It suggests that an “unacceptable” amount of energy is wasted and called for the introduction of energy rating for private buildings.

On a grander scale it is also seeking to develop various forms of renewable energy and has stated that Northern Ireland is rich in renewable resources. It is therefore down to government to emphasise renewables, encourage “imaginative” sources of energy, and support renewable energy technologies as much as the private sector.


Spokesman: Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA

The SDLP welcomes the all-island Single Electricity Market and will seek to have the whole island recognised as a European Energy Zone, which it believes will reduce costs and help meet targets for renewables and ensure better regulation of suppliers.

Extending the gas network, both on an east to west and north to south basis, is also a priority, which would give more customers more choice between energy sources. Promotion of renewable sources of energy would also be more encouraged in areas beyond the reach of the gas network.

Also in 2007 it indicated increased support for energy efficiency and wants to offer additional funding for measures aimed at people living in fuel poverty.

The SDLP also seeks to bring energy prices down for both personal and business customers.

The party would also pass on any savings to the consumer through building on existing not for profit initiatives such as the Moyle Interconnector.


A general commitment to environmentalism is contained in the PUP’s Assembly manifesto. Dawn Purvis’ 2008 conference speech highlighted the problem of urban fuel poverty; some of her constituents could no longer afford to fill oil tanks and were relying on small oil drums instead.

Green Party

Minister: Eamon Ryan TD

Spokesman (NI): Cllr Cadogan Enright

The Green Party envisages an energy- independent Northern Ireland leading to a more prosperous province. That independence, it suggests, can be achieved using renewable energy; it states that energy is directly related to economic prosperity.

In 2007, while advocating renewables, the party sought to promote localised energy production by offering incentives such as grants or a feed-in tariff so that, ultimately, buildings can produce their own energy.

Nuclear power is opposed by the party, chiefly because it is overly reliant on uranium – a diminishing fuel source. Indeed, any move toward nuclear would run counter to moving towards a carbon neutral or indeed carbon free environment.

Topically, the party strongly welcomed Harland and Wolff’s contract to build 30 wind turbines but has criticised the Executive in its perceived failure to support the “fledgling” alternative energy sector in the province.

The Greens are calling for the creation of a European Renewables Community (ERENE) to support the long-term goal of 100 per cent of energy from renewable sources.

Article from agendaNi issue 31 October 2009