A study by Baringa Partners, launched at the Smart Energy Northern Ireland conference in Belfast, has spelled out the benefits consumers receive from the growing adoption of renewable energy. Starting near zero in 2000, total wind generation capacity is expected to hit 1.4GW in Northern Ireland by 2020.

The pay back cost is deduced from the benefit wind power gives by pushing down the wholesale cost of electricity, reducing fuel imports, and helping to avoid compliance fines. This was calculated to be £135 million from 2000 to 2020, a yearly net benefit of £4 per person. Wind power was taken to provide a benefit of roughly £0.8 billion, compared to industry costs totalling approximately £0.7 billion.

According to the report, £600 million of the benefits come from wholesale savings by wind power reducing power prices on the market, with a further £200 million coming from noncompliance fines from the EU that are avoided by the take up of renewable energy generation.

The approximated costs of the industry are split up between £400 million in renewable support, £100 million towards the DS3 programme which aims to deliver a secure and sustainable electricity system, £100 million towards network upgrades, and £100 million associated with the fact that Ireland’s single electricity market lacks the flexibility to absorb all wind generation.

Wind is one of Northern Ireland’s greatest sources of electricity, generating 3.8 TWh each year. The country has a target of 40 per cent renewable electricity by 2020. In 2018, it almost reached the figure with 38.2 per cent of electricity coming from local renewable sources – mostly wind, with the remainder from a mixture of solar, tidal, biogas and other sources.

Rachel Anderson, chair of the Northern Ireland Renewables Industry Group (NIRIG) said: “This report confirms what the wind industry knows from our work on the ground. We understand the value that wind brings to communities and consumers. When you translate this to pounds and pence, it means that using wind energy has saved £4 per person every year in Northern Ireland over the last 20 years.

“We are delighted to see confirmation of the benefits of wind energy for consumers. Our long term commitment to reducing Northern Ireland’s reliance on fossil fuel generation has delivered improvements in our electricity system, reduces dangerous emissions and has actually paid back to people’s pockets.

“The low-carbon sector is now an increasingly important part of our economy and delivers real value across all parts of Northern Ireland.  The UK has set a long-term target of decarbonisation and has successfully grown the low-carbon economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The cost of renewables has tumbled, and wind and solar electricity are now cheaper than any other sources of new generation.”

Analysis carried out by NIRIG this year suggests that Northern Ireland could reach 70 per cent renewable electricity by 2030 with no additional cost to the consumer.