For those who believe that climate change is now under control, there was a timely warning last week from Copernicus, the EU’s earth monitoring service.
Copernicus revealed that July was the hottest month the world has seen since records began in the nineteenth century.
Jean-Noel Thépaut, Head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, said: “ These record breaking extremes are the result of a cocktail of weather phenomenon and human activity.”
It’s worth noting that currently the Stormont Executive has no replacement for its suite of renewable energy schemes which are all coming to an end.
Meanwhile a few eyebrows were raised at the announcement late on Friday afternoon that the Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme (NISEP) was being extended for another year. Why the puzzlement? Well, only three months ago the Department for the Economy and the Energy Regulator were issuing a joint consultation on NISEP's replacement by a new scheme called EnergyWise. And it’s only a month and a half ago since the Regulator issued a statement announcing how EnergyWise would be funded through an increase in NIE’s distribution charge.
Now it’s back to square one. NISEP which uses public money to pay for projects to make homes more energy efficient continues until March 2018. Why the volte face? No reason is given in the statement issued on Friday.
However judging by what the Energy Regulator said last June in reviewing responses from the joint consultation, the burden of providing an explanation falls on the Department.
"In response to those respondents who called for an extension to the NISEP, the UR (Utility Regulator) has sought and received assurances from the Department (for the Economy) that the EnergyWise scheme will be up and running on time. There are no plans to extend the NISEP beyond 31 March 2017."
The change from NISEP to EnergyWise was controversial in that consideration was being given to funding the programme not as present through a universal charge imposed on every unit of electricity consumed by business and homes but to one where households would pick up the entire bill. Such a move would have increased the charge facing the average household from just under £4 a year to just over £10. Large energy users would save on average around £8,500 a year. In short the reform would transfer a burden from companies to private individuals.
With EnergyWise being put on the long finger, so too are any changes in the funding for NISEP which in total comes to about £8 million a year.
But on a more positive note, there must be a sense of relief at the decision by the Chancellor to provide a guarantee to those applying for research funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. Philip Hammond has promised to ensure that Brexit will not cut short the expected stream of revenue. This announcement offers reassurance to any organisation in the energy sector seeking money for research from Europe.
Published on 14/08/2016