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DWF leads a debate on the future of NI energy sector

27 April 2023

DWF, the global provider of integrated legal and business services, hosted a half day conference at the Europa Hotel in Belfast last week to discuss what lies ahead for the energy sector in Northern Ireland.

Over 100 attendees saw a guest panel of experts from NIE Networks, RenewableNI, SSE Ireland, Strategic Power Connect, Echelon Data Centres and FuturoFirma Sustainability Consulting examine the global and national challenges facing the energy sector in NI amongst DWF colleagues and clients.

Opening the discussion, executive partner of DWF in Belfast, Julie Galbraith posed the question of whether Northern Ireland could have 80% of electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2030. 

Steven Agnew, director at RenewableNI stated: "We currently have 1.8 gigawatts of renewables in Northern Ireland right now, we have a target of at least 4 gigawatts by 2030."

Discussing the changes that need to be implemented to achieve the target, three key areas came into focus, financial support from the government, the grid and planning.

Mark Ennis CBE, Non-Executive Chairman of SSE Ireland, the second largest energy utility on the island and part of the FTSE-listed SSE plc, opined that: "In 25 years, Northern Ireland could be the Qatar of renewable energy. We have all the natural resources, we have water and we have wind and with all Government Departments working together we can even meet our 80% target by 2030".

Head of Power at DWF, Darren Walsh, reminded the audience of the huge shift in attitudes towards renewable energy which has already been accomplished: "In 2010, the biggest challenge was that boards weren't interested in renewable energy, but ESG is now higher on the agenda. Businesses are now making it a core focus."

Orla Hanna, head of DWF's Belfast Finance and Restructuring team, concluded the discussion optimistically, stating: "People in Northern Ireland, when we come together can effect big change and quickly. We have people in the room with a real spirit and determination to get there."

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