Ulster Unionist Environment Spokesperson, Danny Kinahan, has said that the Northern Ireland Executive should set specific targets for each different source of renewable energy to ensure that they are all being fully exploited.
The South Antrim representative said;
Northern Ireland is 99 per cent dependent on imported fossil fuels for our energy needs; therefore it is absolutely vital that we begin to drive forward our own indigenous renewable energy market.
The Programme for Government for 2011-2015, which was only recently agreed at Stormont, set a target that Northern Ireland needs to generate 20% of our electricity consumption from renewable sources.
Whilst it and the Strategic Energy Framework set ambitious targets, such objectives may prove fruitless unless there is a genuine reassessment of our renewable energy sector.
I am confident that we will meet our existing targets, but more out of convenience rather than conviction. Northern Ireland is slowing building upon our stock of wind farms and it will be primarily thanks to these that we will be able to meet our renewable energy targets.
Whilst onshore wind energy is no doubt a very valuable supply of electricity, the Northern Ireland Executive needs to recognise there are also a number of other viable sources.
The best way to expand and strengthen our range of renewable energy sources would be to set particular targets for energy production for each.
I would like to see the day when the Executive has put in place the skills and infrastructure to fully utilize the opportunities offered by offshore wind, biomass and anaerobic digestion.
I would like more to be done to raise awareness and understanding of the benefits and opportunities of bioenergy. In addition anaerobic digestion is not just an efficient source of renewable energy, but could also prove extremely beneficial as a means of disposing significant quantities of biodegradable waste.
We need to move rapidly towards higher levels of renewable energy production and consumption. We are on the right track however there is much more which the Executive could and should be doing.