Planning delays and hiring shortages, along with different post-Brexit rules and the lack of a Northern Ireland Executive, have “frustrated investment” across the island of Ireland in recent years, according to a report by Irish business group Ibec and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Northern Ireland.
The report says developers face “immense difficulties” delivering big renewable projects including solar plants, wind farms and inter-connectors on time. The biggest issues are “cumbersome planning processes, regulatory uncertainty, a lack of resources in key agencies and lengthy judicial review challenges”.
“A failure to address these issues will see vital investment, talent and supply chains move elsewhere,” the report says. “Ultimately these delays threaten the island’s ability to meet energy and emissions targets.”
According to Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the State will fall far short of its EU emission reduction targets for 2030.
Even with the ambitious measures outlined in last year’s Climate Action Plan, Ireland will only be able to cut emissions by up to 30pc on 2005 levels, falling short of a 42pc target, the EPA said.
In their report today, businesses across the island of Ireland are calling on Belfast, Dublin, and London to begin “a new phase in energy collaboration and investment in shared infrastructure, including a recommitment to the Single Electricity Market”.
The transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions – where emissions are either reduced or offset entirely by 2050 – will cost an estimated €125bn across the island this decade, the report says.
Fergal O’Brien, Ibec’s executive director of lobbying, said the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and restart of North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) offer a “real opportunity to begin a new phase of all-Ireland cooperation”.
“An uncoordinated and disjointed approach could see policymakers working against each other, resulting in unnecessary duplication of effort and investment, increased costs, mixed signals for consumers and investors, and missed opportunities for emission reduction,” he said.
Angela McGowan, director of CBI Northern Ireland, said it is “in Northern Ireland’s economic interest to broaden” its collaboration on energy policy with both Ireland and Britain.
“The business community recognises the immense opportunities from increase investment, energy security and job creation. However, these can only be realised through collaboration, both north-south and east-west to ensure that regulatory divergence does not hinder progress.”