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Rural Development must support 'green energy'

23 April 2009

MEP Jim Allister has said the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme must support farmers who want to erect renewable energy installations. The MEP’s comments were made after becoming aware of DARD’s current policy not to grant aid ‘stand alone’ renewable energy installations under RDP Measure 3.1 ‘Diversification into non-agricultural activities’.  

The MEP said,
“Many farmers, by virtue of their skills in engineering and their desire to exploit new business opportunities have an interest in investing in renewable energy projects as an alternative income stream. I have one particular farming constituent who applied to his local action group for funding for a small hydro scheme, whereby 85% of electricity produced would be exported to the grid. Despite having a ready market for his electricity produce, and with local schools extremely interested in using the project for its educational potential, DARD has banned all such projects from receiving funding under Measure 3.1. However, I am aware that the local action group recognises the enormous potential of such projects, and consequently has written to DARD to ask that the Department reconsiders its position in relation to not funding stand alone renewable installations.”

“Of course DARD got its fingers burned in awarding funding to what transpired to be faulty wind turbines under the WERB scheme, but this was due to mismanagement on the part of DARD, and not an indictment of the merits of renewable energy per se. That is why I have written to the Permanent Secretary, insisting that the benefits of micro renewable installations are too great to be ignored under this current round of Rural Development funding. Renewables are an important part of EU energy policy, in terms of diversifying our energy sources and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. I fully expect the Department to review its stance, and to ensure renewable energy projects can be considered as legitimate diversification projects in their own right.”


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Agriculture and Environment