Northern Ireland faces many challenges when it comes to carbon neutrality and climate change, and we are trying to address those in a meaningful manner – which will ensure that we keep our economy going, but also drive down our carbon footprint significantly.
In our department, we have established a 'green growth' agenda, which aims to ensure that on all environmental fronts we leave a better environmental footprint while at the same time allows growth to take place so that young people have job opportunities. The green economy creates many opportunities for jobs.
Northern Ireland is already at 45% renewable energy, and we are going to drive that up further through wind power, solar power and anaerobic digestion. We are going to extract that hydrogen and use hydrolosis, particularly when the electric power has been produced at night and is not being utilised, so we will utilise unused electricity. This gives us the opportunity to save energy. It is my vision that Northern Ireland becomes self-sufficient in renewable energy and becomes a net exporter of renewable energy, and one of the areas where we are looking to do that is in anaerobic digestion – which already accounts for powering 62% of the homes on the gas pipe network in Northern Ireland.
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Think about the opportunities where you can decarbonise – whether that is thinking about using different sources of renewable energy, such as biomethane or hydrogen – and think about where you can apply these, for example, to the gas pipe network or to transport.