Wind Energy Ireland, with the help of energy specialists Baringa, has reported that Northern Irish wind farms saved a total of £243 million in 2023.
The Irish renewable energy organisation confirmed in its annual report that 35% of the whole island’s electricity was provided by wind farms, thus cutting out carbon costs.
The average wholesale electricity price has also decreased by 68% year-on-year, standing at was €88.97/MWh (£76/MWh) in December 2023, compared to €276.52/MWh (£237/MWh) in December 2022.
Arguably, this should come as no surprise. In December 2023 the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency published a report confirming that 47.4% of the nation’s electricity consumption was provided by renewables between October 2022 and September 2023.
83.8% of the renewable energy (2,922GWh) from the 12-month period was generated solely from wind power, followed by biogas at 6.2% and solar at 3.5%.
Despite the strength of these numbers, they also represent a significant drop from the year before. In Baringa’s previous annual research, it was estimated that Northern Ireland saved £500 million through the use of wind farms.
The report, titled Cutting Gas, Cutting Bills: Analysis of savings in gas imports delivered by wind farms in 2022, now serves to highlight the more than 50% drop in savings for Northern Ireland consumers from 2022 to 2023.
This, primarily, will be the result of considerably lower wholesale gas prices over the past year, which alleviated the immediate need for renewable energy resources.
Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, said: “We know that consumers and businesses are struggling every day with high energy bills. They need their electricity to be affordable as well as clean.
“The continued annual fall in wholesale electricity prices is welcome news. We are gradually starting to see these price reductions being passed onto consumers in their energy bills and we hope to see this continue in 2024.”
Where to now for NI?
As it stands, Northern Ireland is powering ahead with wind power production, with Solar Media Market Research revealing that the nation has 82 onshore wind sites with 586 turbines, amounting to an installed capacity of 1.2GW.
The renewable energy generation has risen significantly over the past decade, with figures showing 1,202GWh of production for the 12-month period closing in September 2013, to 3,487GWh for the period ending in September 2023.
Moreover, total energy consumption for Northern Ireland has decreased by 9.8% in the last 10-years, falling from 8,160GWh between October 2012 to September 2013 to 7,357GWh for the 12-month period just passed.
For its size, Northern Ireland is producing a healthy amount of renewable energy, so the next potential steps could be expanding usage to neighbouring countries.
For example, in May 2023 a transmission licence application has been made for a 700MW Northern Ireland-Scotland interconnector project.
With a required investment of £700 million, the project is considerable in size and would provide the opportunity to connect the Irish Integrated Single Energy market and the GB wholesale electricity market.
In a similar vein, EDF Renewables UK confirmed its plans in June 2023 for a 400MW wind farm proposal across two areas of commercial forestry within the Scottish Borders.
The project, which plans to be submitted to the Scottish Borders Council, could include up to 80 wind turbines, a battery energy storage system (BESS) and onsite solar.