18 August 2014
The Ulster Farmers’ Union has reacted to a statement from the Utility Regulator confirming that “conditional” grid connection offers are to be withdrawn. The announcement was made following a recent Utility Regulator determination and linked to the outcome of the Competition Commission’s decision on NIE’s price control conditions, known as RP5.
Speaking after the announcement, UFU Rural Enterprise Chairman Gary Hawkes said; “This approach will have far reaching impact for all would-be small scale renewable generators in Northern Ireland waiting to connect to the grid. For those who face insurmountable grid reinforcement costs, it will unfortunately mean the end of the road. Yet, for the remainder it could mean a window to connect to the grid. Despite the good news/bad news aspect to the determination, overall it will bring much needed certainty to what has been a frustrating period for our members.”
Gary Hawkes continued said “Up until now, hundreds of grid connection applications in Northern Ireland were held back, as they were subject to “conditional offers”, with many landowners not knowing whether their individual renewable project would even go ahead. Problems became so severe that I wrote to NIE and the Utility Regulator in early June, voicing our concerns on the uncertainty arising from conditional grid connection offers and the resulting communication problems. Hence, we welcome the approach taken by NIE and the Utility Regulator which will provide clarity and establish definitive timelines in relation to grid connections and crucially, improve customer relations and communications with landowners.”
Mr Hawkes stressed; “We have a large number of our members who will be directly affected by this decision and I am very aware of the frustration on the ground. I would urge landowners to remain patient. By way of a reassurance, the Utility Regulator has confirmed that those who remain in the queue, will not lose their place. I am calling upon NIE to provide as much information as possible to affected landowners in order to manage expectations and allow them to make informed decisions about their investments.”
Gary Hawkes concluded “As far as a possible solution is concerned, myself and my colleagues have been working with NIE on alternative grid connection methods which could allow some of the would-be small scale generators to connect to the network. In addition, the UFU are working with Down District Farmers for Renewable Energy on a micro-grid and storage solution.”