Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has defended the Executive’s support for renewable energy after criticism from DUP colleague Sammy Wilson.
In recent years, renewable energy has played an increasing role in powering homes and businesses in Ulster.
On December 17, the level of wind energy in the network surpassed 500 megawatts for the first time, making up almost 40 per cent of electricity at that point. However, the vagaries of when the wind blows at the right speed mean that over the last year wind contributed an average of just 18 per cent of the electricity used.
In an Assembly debate on Monday, Mr Wilson again made clear that he believed renewable energy was over-subsidised and was needlessly pushing up electricity prices for everyone.
Attacking Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan’s stance on the issue, he referred to a report by the Enterprise Committee and said: “Of course, [Mr Flanagan] has been the exponent of what the report has shown to be the cause of high energy costs: renewable energy.
“So it is good to see that there is now a conversion, or maybe this is just Sinn Fein’s ability to face both ways on the energy issue as it does on everything else.”
However, Mrs Foster later said: “I hear the arguments made against wind, such as its cost, and I will look at those very closely when I get the full papers, but I am very conscious that we should not lose sight of the wider economic benefits when we debate the pros and cons of renewables.
“It is not just all about wind. Look at Evermore’s new £80 million biomass power plant in Londonderry — the first of its kind.”
However, Mr Wilson — who last week in the chamber disagreed with DUP chief whip Peter Weir as to whether climate change was caused by humans — did praise Mrs Foster for blocking a carbon tax, something he said would have increased electricity prices by 15 per cent.