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NI wind energy subsidy will end a year early

The subsidy system for onshore wind energy in Northern Ireland is set to end a year earlier than planned next April, the BBC has reported.

Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has started a two-week consultation on the proposal, after previously saying that he would maintain the subsidy system until 2017.

However, he said that changes in UK policy now meant that keeping it until 2017 would impose extra costs on consumers.

The subsidy system for renewable energy is being radically scaled back by the Conservative government.

Energy policy is devolved to Stormont, but decisions taken at Westminster are having a knock-on effect.

Under the current system all onshore wind energy projects are guaranteed a subsidy. This is ending in 2016, when it will be replaced by one in which there is UK-wide competition for subsidy payments.

Renewable development will then take place wherever it is most economic.

Small-scale wind schemes will still be able to qualify for the subsidy, but only if they have planning permission and property and grid connection agreements in place.

Larger “cluster connection” schemes have until 30 October to get all necessary agreements in place, which means that any that are at a preliminary stage have no guarantee of getting a subsidy and may not proceed.

The Ulster Farmers Union has criticised the decision to hold only a two-week consultation on the proposal and added that the timescale was “inadequate in light of the implications for the small-scale renewables sector in Northern Ireland”.

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