Minister's speech - Energy Ireland Conference - 22 May 2024

Note: this publication may not reflect verbatim delivery by Minister Hargey.


Good morning and thank you for having me here today.

Deirdre Hargey MLA - interim Economy Minister
Deirdre Hargey MLA - interim Economy Minister

I am standing in as Economy Minister for Conor Murphy, who sends his apologies and best wishes for this important conference.

The Economic Vision

Upon taking up office in February, Conor set out his Economic Vision with four key objectives which are interlinked and interconnected.

They are:

  • delivering more good jobs
  • addressing regional imbalance
  • increasing productivity and
  • decarbonisation. 

Achieving net zero is a legal duty under the Climate Change Act and a moral duty to future generations.

It is also an economic opportunity.

The technological revolution required means that the transition to Net Zero can and should create highly-productive companies that provide Good Jobs right across the island.

There are plenty of examples of those opportunities being realised.

Wrightbus in Ballymena is leading in battery and hydrogen fuel cell buses, supplying into Dublin and across Britain and Europe with its engineering innovation being supported by our world class research capability at Queen’s University.

Ionic Technologies in Belfast is operating a demonstrator plant that is recycling magnets into rare earth metal oxides.

Plaswire in Mid-Ulster is recycling wind turbine blades.

Glen Dimplex in Newry and Octopus in Mid-Ulster are manufacturing leading edge of heat pump technology.

Only last week, Copeland Compressors in Mid-Ulster announced a major expansion to service the European heat pump market.

Catagen in Belfast is developing world-leading innovative thermo-chemical technology to produce green hydrogen and eFuels.

Artemis Technologies in Belfast is developing its innovative hydrofoil system for electric workboats and inshore ferries that will accelerate maritime decarbonisation; and

Major energy users Mannok Cement with Encirc are pioneering the development of the Green Hydrogen Valley in Fermanagh.

This is only a snapshot of the businesses investing in the burgeoning net zero technology cluster that is developing rapidly in the North.

It is a really exciting time and the opportunity of not just a lifetime but of many generations.

With the right investment and the right support we can build upon this success.

The solutions we need on this island to deliver net zero are the same solutions the rest of the world needs too.

It will only take a small proportion of the global market opportunity, to deliver a significant uplift in prosperity for our citizens. 

As a small region, the North is well placed to tailor support to local energy industries through partnership and co-design.

And thanks to the Windsor Framework, we now find ourselves in the unique position of being able to export goods - to both British and European markets - without the friction that others must now endure.

By tapping into our renowned technological capacity we can become a world-leading exporter of skills, expertise, and solutions in the energy sector.

In doing so we will not only drive the net zero agenda, but we will also improve our productivity, nurture good jobs, and promote regional balance.

Energy Strategy

The Energy Strategy for the North is a product of extensive consultation, healthy scrutiny, and collaboration, including with many of you here today.

It aims to deliver self-sufficiency in affordable renewable energy.

This means ending the importing of fossil fuels.

It means creating stable, fair prices for locally produced renewable energy.

And it means breaking the decades-long link with global commodity prices which have caused such significant financial hardship these past few years.

In doing so, we can finally end the injustice of fuel poverty.

Everyone should be able to afford to heat where they live.

Since the Executive was restored in February, my department has introduced a moratorium on onshore petroleum licensing.

This will be followed by a legislative ban.

A three-year capital energy efficiency and renewable grant support for our business sector was recently launched.

We will share our findings and analysis from two major exciting geothermal demonstrator projects, one with shallow wells in the Stormont Estate in Belfast and the other a deep well in the College for Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise Estate in County Antrim.

We are publishing two calls for evidence on potential alternatives to fossil fuels for heating, one on biomethane and the other on HVO and biofuels.

My department is providing additional capital into the Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme for energy efficiency and lower-carbon solutions with the focus in supporting lower income and vulnerable households.

We are publishing two major consultations relating to domestic households; one on the future of low-carbon heat support and the other on the future of energy efficiency support.

And my officials are working with the Utility Regulator on the issues of grid connection costs and electricity smart metering.

We are also progressing urgently our Off-Shore Renewable Electricity Action Plan and will this year publish our Strategic Environmental and Habitats Regulation Assessments as part of enabling up to 4GW of renewable electricity capacity in our offshore waters from 2030.

My colleague in the Department for Infrastructure will publish a new Regional Strategic Planning Policy on renewable and low-carbon energy; and

We are working with colleagues in Invest NI on the development of our Net Zero Accelerator Fund, to provide government support for the development and delivery of innovative renewable technologies.

So there is a lot of activity.


To capitalise fully on the opportunity however, all-island collaboration is key.

By working together the whole island can be a global beacon in the delivery of net zero; exporting our surplus renewable energies, and shaping our own destiny in what is a precarious global landscape.

It is therefore encouraging to have both Ministers speaking at this conference, and to see delegates here from right across the island.

Your collaboration and partnership, along with the support of both governments, will make Minster Murphy’s vision, and Minister Ryan’s ambition, a reality.

Thank you.

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