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Renewable Energy

Volume 563: debated on Wednesday 5 June 2013

1. What steps she is taking to promote co-operation in the development of renewable energy between Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. (157233)

Both the Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are committed to encouraging a clean and diverse portfolio of domestic energy supply which includes renewable energy sources to meet economic, social and environmental needs.

As the Minister knows, the seas around the west coast of Scotland and the shores of Ireland have immense potential for renewable energy. What assessment has been made of how that potential can be maximised by new and upgraded interconnectors?

A huge amount of work is going on. Indeed, I was at Belfast docks recently observing the fabrication of new types of offshore wind farm technology. I should add, however—wearing my former Shipping Minister’s hat—that while of course we need offshore technology and connectivity, we must ensure that, as we introduce it throughout the United Kingdom, we protect our shipping lanes.

One of Northern Ireland’s attributes is its beautiful countryside and rural setting. As we pursue renewable energy sources, it is important for us not to end up with the blight of windmills throughout our countryside. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind as he co-operates with our neighbours in the Republic.

Absolutely. The Northern Ireland Executive are committed to protecting the environment and countryside, although they want 40% of Northern Ireland’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020.

I am curious to know—as, I am sure, is the whole House—whether the Northern Ireland Office has had any discussions with the Irish Government about the possibility of fracking in Northern Ireland, and the use of shale gas. Please do not tell me that this is a devolved issue; I want a response from the Northern Ireland Office.

Neither the Secretary of State nor I have engaged in such discussions. I will find out whether our officials have done so, and will write to the hon. Lady if they have.