Northern Ireland is beating its green energy target as more than 40 per cent of the electricity consumed there comes from renewable sources.
The news came as Ervia, owner of utilities Irish Water and Gas Networks Ireland, and Norwegian group Equinor (formerly Statoil), said they were weighing a plan to trap and store carbon dioxide from power plants.
Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy published figures on Thursday showing that 44 per cent of the electricity used in the region came from locally based renewable sources in the 12 months ended June 30th, 2019.
This is ahead of a deadline set in 2011 by the Stormont government, which aimed to have 40 per cent of all electricity used in Northern Ireland come from renewable sources by 2020.
The department’s figures also show that on average, renewable electricity accounted for 40.7 per cent of the power used in Northern Ireland during every month of 2018.
Wind generated more than 85 per cent of the green electricity used there in the 12 months to the end of June this year.
Noel Lavery, the department's permanent secretary, said plans to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050 would require Northern Ireland to move past 40 per cent by 2050.
Separately, Ervia and Equinor have signed a memo of understanding that could lead to the Norwegian player using its carbon capture and storage system to trap the greenhouse gas from electricity generators and store it in empty oil wells beneath the North Sea.
The system uses a chemical, amine, to absorb carbon from fumes emitted by gas-fired power stations. The chemical is then heated, the carbon separated, turned to liquid and transported. It is then injected underground, often into disused hydrocarbon wells, where rocks absorb it.
Equinor has been using the technology for more than 20 years. According to the company, the system can capture potentially all the carbon emitted by gas-fired power plants.
If Ervia’s and Equinor’s plan works in Ireland, then carbon from power plants here could be trapped and shipped for storage beneath the North Sea.
Cathal Marley, Ervia's interim chief executive, said that the memo was a step towards Ireland playing a key role in developing carbon capture and storage technology.
Equinor chief executive Eldar Sætre, Norwegian petroleum minister Kjell-Børge Freiberg and European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete attended the signing ceremony.