consumer issues

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is, as it sounds, energy that is produced from an inexhaustible or replaceable source, unlike coal, oil or gas.

In order to improve the sustainability of NI's future energy system a shift is required from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

The Governments Obligation on Renewable Energy

The UK Government is committed to achieving 20 per cent of electricity supplies from renewable sources in 2020. In Northern Ireland the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment which has responsibility for energy is also taking steps to meet this target. One of the ways in which they hope to do this is to encourage householders in NI to install renewable technologies in their homes. The Reconnect programme was set up in 2006 and ran to March 2008 giving grants to help householders with the cost of installing renewable sources of energy. Householders can still get grants for installing renewables through the Low Carbon Buildings initiative: www.lowcarbonbuildings.org.uk

What are the sources of renewable energy?

Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP)                           
GSHPs extract heat from the ground and pump it into a building to provide space heating and to pre-heat hot water. In summer months this process can be reversed to cool the building.

Hydro Electric Schemes
Hydroelectricity is one of the oldest methods of generating renewable energy. Hydroelectricity converts potential energy stored in water, at a height, into kinetic energy to turn a turbine and produce electricity.

Solar Photovoltaics (PV)
The word photovoltaic means electricity from light. A PV cell is a small energy conversion system that converts the sun’s energy directly into electricity by generating an electrical current across two or more layers of silicon.

Solar Water Heating (SWH)
SWH systems use a roof mounted solar collector to gather solar radiation to produce heat that is normally used for heating domestic water.

Biomass and Anaerbic Digestion
Dry plant materials or wet animal wastes are often referred to as biomass. The most common biomass resource in NI is wood.

Wind
Wind is considered one of the most promising renewable energy resources for electricity generation. Northern Ireland has some of the best wind profiles in Europe and is well suited to wind development.

Marine Energy
‘Marine energy’ is a term used to describe all forms of renewable energy derived from the sea.

Wave-based devices generate electricity from movements of the sea surface, whereas tidal stream installations sit on the sea floor and use the movement of the tides as they come in and out.

SeaGen - Tidal energy
The world’s first deep-water device to generate electricity from the tides on a commercial scale has just been installed in Strangford Lough. The SeaGen Tidal System at Strangford Lough in Co Down, Northern Ireland, is designed to produce enough electricity to supply 1,000 homes. Strangford Lough is one of the best locations to put the tidal system into due to the speed and power of the tidal system there.

A seagoing crane barge lowered the 1,000-tonne double turbine into place and it was fixed into the seabed with 12 metre (40 ft) pins.

The system, made by Marine Current Turbines (MCT) and assembled at the Harland and Wolff dockyard in Belfast, has two 16m blades which will be turned by the water streaming in and out of Strangford Lough at a speed up to 8 knots.

The SeaGen is a revolutionary new device and will be closely monitored over the course of time to see its success and the effects it has on the surrounding Lough.

 

SeaGen

 

Domestic combined heat and power (d-CHP)
d-CHP provides a very efficient way of generating heat and power at the same time: while the unit heats the home like a normal gas boiler, it also generates electricity (approximately 1kW).

Current Suppliers of Green Energy
Green tariffs provide the easiest way to support renewable energy. They operate by making the electricity supply company obtain an amount equal to the total amount of electricity used from existing renewable energy sources, meaning that correspondingly fewer units will be produced from fossil fuels. There is no change in the way electricity is supplied and costs exactly the same as normal domestic tariffs.

Consider switching to an energy supplier who sources power from renewable sources (for example NIE Eco Energy at no additional cost. Tel: 08457 455 455.

Ask your parents if they would be willing to switch to NIE’s EcoEnergy at no extra cost.

Currently Business Customers have a larger choice of suppliers who can provide “green electricity”. Companies such as Airtricity, Energia, ESB and NIE. Business users supplying their premises with a renewable electricity tariff are exempt from paying the Climate Change Levy.

Nuclear energy & security of supply

The Government’s 2006 Energy Review returned nuclear power to the headlines. Nuclear energy supplies 16 per cent of the world’s electricity. There are currently 436 commercial nuclear reactors operating in 30 countries, with a further 29 under construction. Nuclear energy currently accounts for approximately 20 per cent of the UK’s electricity production. By 2023 this figure will have fallen to as 18 of the 19 current nuclear power plants will be retired.

No nuclear power plants are planned to be constructed in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland has a no nuclear stance.

Graphic shows how high-level waste is stored in a cooling tank for several years, then mixed with glass and poured into metal cannisters to solidify, then stored above ground and may finally be buried indefinitely 300m - 2km deep underground.


Radioactive waste is one of the biggest problems faced by the nuclear industry. Spent nuclear fuel is highly radioactive, but can be reprocessed to extract the remaining usable uranium and plutonium, a process which reduces the need to mine fresh uranium and cuts the volume of waste.

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