Why we all benefit from the Path to Net Zero

Date published: 01 February 2022

Since taking office last summer, I have repeatedly talked about my desire to create a healthy economy, but I also want to see a healthy society and healthy environment.

•	Economy Minister Gordon Lyons launches The Path to Net Zero Energy at a solar farm near Lisburn
• Economy Minister Gordon Lyons launches The Path to Net Zero Energy at a solar farm near Lisburn

Creating a step change in how we generate and use energy will, in time, benefit everyone in Northern Ireland and help us safeguard the planet for future generations.

As Minister with responsible for energy policy, I am committed to helping people in every community across Northern Ireland to become more energy efficient and have access to more affordable energy.

This not only helps us all to reduce our energy bills, but also brings positive outcomes for health and wellbeing, with warmer, drier homes and buildings.

Last month I launched The Path to Net Zero Energy, an ambitious new strategy designed to ensure Northern Ireland’s energy is secure, affordable and clean for future generations. I was delighted to receive such a wide range of endorsements for the paper from groups including the NI Business Alliance, as well as the Utility Regulator and other bodies that represent the interests of energy users – the Consumer Council and the charity National Energy Action.

The strategy sets out a threefold approach: boosting energy efficiency in our buildings; increasing our consumption of energy from renewable sources; and doubling the size of our green economy.

I also published a 22-point Action Plan for 2022 which sets out some of the practical steps for how we can achieve those aims. In doing so, we will also help secure our energy supply on the journey to net zero as fossil fuel supply and consumption is reduced.

So what does ‘net zero energy’ actually mean?

It is about changing how we generate and consume energy so that there is an overall zero output of carbon into the atmosphere – a target the UK Government has committed to achieving by 2050.

Our Energy Strategy and Action Plan set out the path to 2030 which will bring together the skills we need, the technologies involved and the behaviours we all need to adopt so that we all can contribute to this important goal, whilst, crucially, reaping the economic benefits.

Make no mistake – reducing the amount of energy we generate from fossil fuels, coupled with taking efficiency actions so that we consume less energy, not only has a clear benefit for the environment, it also brings significant commercial and employment opportunities.

NIE Networks, with the support of the Utility Regulator, has already strongly backed the Strategy and Action Plan by creating 110 new jobs and investing £50million in the electricity network to enable more renewable electricity.

The Action Plan will further support the growth of the green economy through a £10million green technology innovation fund and by establishing a Hydrogen Centre of Excellence – nurturing the innovation that will be needed to unlock the full potential of this exciting emerging energy sector.

Of course, the best way to reduce energy costs is to use less of it and make the most of the energy we do consume. To this end, we are committed in the Action Plan to delivering a 25% energy saving from buildings and industry by 2030. We will support both domestic consumers and businesses to reduce their energy consumption, whilst also making all new buildings net zero ready by 2026/27.

We already generate nearly half of our electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro. The Path to Net Zero Energy sets out how we will increase that to 70% by 2030, significantly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. We will support the development and delivery of a range of renewable technologies, including use of geothermal and biomethane sources.

To deliver all of this we clearly need the support of industry and wider society.

In addition to the groups previously mentioned, the Housing Executive has also backed our plans by committing to reduce energy consumption and boost efficiency in homes across Northern Ireland in its role as the Home Energy Conservation Authority.

Together, we can ensure the vision of a cleaner and healthier society becomes a reality, delivering more affordable energy as set out in the Path to Net Zero Energy, and our reliance on volatile and unpredictable parts of the world for our energy requirements are vastly reduced and ended. I invite all of you to join me on that ambitious and vitally important journey.

Gordon Lyons, Economy Minister

Share this page

Back to top