RenewableNI, the voice of Northern Ireland’s renewable electricity industry, has been told the Planning Appeals Commission “are functioning at approximately 75 per cent of operational capacity”.
In a letter to a RenewableNI member, the PAC confirmed they did not have the resources available to allocate a Commissioner to a review of a renewable electricity development.
The letter stated: “The Commission is experiencing significant resourcing pressures” with “a major conjoined public inquiry” currently using all resources.
The letter suggests that only a single inquiry can be held at a time.
Steven Agnew, Director of RenewableNI, said:
“RenewableNI has previously had concerns about the PAC’s ability to work at pace, and that was when they were operating at 100 per cent.
“This is a substantial impediment for all developers across Northern Ireland, including the renewables sector.
“RenewableNI members are willing to invest in the Northern Ireland economy. If we meet the 80 by 30 target, £5bn GVA will be added, and 1,500 jobs recreated. Consumers will save money and we will greatly reduce carbon emissions.
“Unfortunately, development is being stalled by a planning system that is unfit for purpose. The renewable electricity industry has accepted a fees increase, despite NI already having the highest planning application fees of anywhere in UK and ROI. However, we insist the increased fees should be value for money and the system resourced to meet the needs of users.
“Developers are facing a backlog at every stage of planning system. Amongst our members, 85MW of renewable electricity, enough to power up to 85,000 homes, has been held up for more than three years and counting.
Tamasin Fraser, UK Director of ABO Wind, said:
“Reduced operational capacity of the PAC is now causing significant delays to projects that if progressed will make substantial contributions to Northern Ireland’s economy and the fight against climate change.
“It is also a red flag to potential investors. When added to other issues we experience across planning and grid, as well as the lack of any support mechanism Northern Ireland is at the very real risk of falling even further behind other countries in the delivery of new renewable energy projects.
“We have world class wind resources in Northern Ireland which offer unique environmental and socio-economic opportunities. But they will be lost unless urgent action is taken to address key challenges including the current situation with the PAC.”
Steven Agnew continued:
“At a time when we should be accelerating towards a cleaner energy future, it very much feels like the handbrake is on. Without major changes we have no chance of getting close to 80 percent this decade. There is a climate emergency. Now we need to see an emergency style response from the relevant departments, business as usual is not an option.”
For media inquiries please contact Judith Rance, Communications and Events Manager, RenewableNI, Judith.Rance@RenewableNI.com, 07875-681-794.
Notes to editors
A copy of the PAC letter is available, NOT FOR PUBLICATION, on request to Daniel McLaughlin email@example.com
RenewableNI is the voice of the renewable electricity industry. Through the development of policy, best practice and public communications, we represent those engaged in wind, solar and battery storage development. Our members make up a large majority of the renewable industry supply chain in Northern Ireland.
Renewable electricity provided 51 per cent of demand last year, with wind generation alone displacing NI £500m of gas.