Northern Ireland Backs Solar Thermal, Biomass Heating

Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State Peter Hain has revealed new proposals he says will put the power of cleaner and greener energy into the hands of the ordinary people of Northern Ireland. A GBP 59 million (USD $103 million) Environment and Renewable Energy funding package announced this week will include grant assistance to private householders wanting to install renewable energy systems to heat their homes.

“Global warming is a reality that threatens all our futures,” said Hain, speaking at the fund launch in the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry. “On top of that, everyone is feeling the impact of rising fuel prices in a world where the security of our energy supplies is under increasing threat. It is time for action.” He said it was time for Northern Ireland, both at Government level and on a personal level, to work in partnership to meet the global challenge. At Government level, the fund will result in the Stormont Estate being powered by a new biomass plant, the integration of solar energy systems on other Government buildings, and enhanced energy efficiency measures in public sector buildings, with an emphasis on schools. There will also be a unique program of research into the potential for energy crops, waste and geothermal resources to generate heat and electricity. An all-island assessment of the electricity grid infrastructure needs to accommodate renewables beyond 2025 will also be undertaken. At a personal level, grants of between 30-50% to install renewable energy in private homes will allow the public to play its part, increasing the number of homes in Northern Ireland with renewable heat systems tenfold to approximately 4,000. Solar hot water systems will be installed in hundreds of Northern Ireland Housing Executive homes, and the Warm Homes Scheme, which provides energy efficiency measures for those in fuel poverty, will receive more than GBP 9 million (USD $16 million) in additional funding, allowing 10,000 homes to be covered. “People have asked me if what they do individually in our own homes can make a real difference to the environment,” Hain said. “The answer to that is an emphatic yes — we’re all in this together.”
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