Assembly group starts energy study

A cross-party delegation of Assembly members was today heading off on a four-day fact-finding mission to Denmark and Belgium to look at alternative energy sources.

A cross-party delegation of Assembly members was today heading off on a four-day fact-finding mission to Denmark and Belgium to look at alternative energy sources.

The Assembly Enterprise Trade and Investment committee chaired by Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty was due to leave Belfast for Copenhagen as part of its ongoing inquiry into electricity and gas provision in Northern Ireland.

Mr Doherty, who is leading a team of seven other MLAs and three civil servants on the trip, said it would help them conclude their report on energy.

‘‘During the course of our inquiry, we have been looking at other European countries in a similar position to ourselves on the question of renewable energy, whether that is gas or oil,’’ the West Tyrone MP said.

‘‘During the course of the evidence we have received, two models have been put to us as the way forward - namely the alternative energy systems operating in Portugal and Denmark.

‘‘It is our belief that Denmark is nearer to the type of position we find ourselves in and we will be looking at renewable energy such as waste incineration, gas-fired and biomass energy.’’

Mr Doherty will be joined by Deputy Chairman Sean Neeson of the Alliance Party, Ulster Unionists David McClarty and Duncan Shipley Dalton, the SDLP’s Dr Alasdair McDonnell and Annie Courtney, Sinn Fein’s Dara O’Hagan and the Women’s Coalition’s Jane Morrice.

During its visit the committee will hold talks with the Danish Energy Agency, visit several plants including an offshore wind turbine and meet the Danish Biogas Association.

It will then travel to Brussels to discuss energy sources with European Commission officials and the Minister for Energy in the Belgian Federal Government, Olivier Deleuze.

Mr Doherty said the MLAs would be particularly focusing on the controversial issue of burning Rimulsion, an alternative fuel which could be introduced in Northern Ireland at Kilroot power station.

‘‘We will have the chance to see a power station burning this fuel and hope to talk with environmentalists monitoring the situation,’’ he said.

‘‘We will also meet with the energy policy makers in the European Commission which will give us an opportunity to highlight the difficulties experienced in Northern Ireland with our high fuel bills.’’

The Enterprise Trade and Investment Committee chairman confirmed that their report on their energy inquiry had just completed its first draft.

It is envisaged that, provided that the Assembly is still functioning after September 23, the report will be published later in the autumn.

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