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Subsidies withdrawn under the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation

The Department for the Economy (DECC) has finally released its proposals for withdrawal of subsidies under the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO) for small scale onshore wind generation.

The NIRO will close on 30 June 2016 for wind turbines under 5MW, but projects may be able to connect up to 31 March 2019 if they meet specific grace period criteria.

So what does this mean for the wind industry?

The consultation response provides welcome confirmation of the cut-off dates for obtaining subsidies and much-needed certainty for developers.

It also strikes a reasonable balance between allowing more projects to gain subsidy accreditation without creating an alternative NI-only subsidy scheme that may have devalued existing projects. DECC has created an extra three month window for accreditation, which the Government in Westminster had previously resisted; a good result for the wind industry.

Along with the grace periods that will allow some projects to connect up to March 2019 this should allow for a significant number of new wind turbines to be installed. Of course many developers will still miss out. This opportunity for some has to be balanced against the limits imposed by the number of grid connections that are available under NIE's new connection policy.

There are still many turbines with planning permission that will be excluded because it was simply not possible for them to get a viable grid connection in time. However, DECC had made its position clear. It is not willing to release further funds to subsidise the NI small wind market when the door had already been shut in Great Britain.

So even this short extension for some projects must be seen as a bonus for the sector.

The response to the consultation can be found on DECCs website.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2016. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

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