Mid Ulster Businesses explore Net Zero Carbon Cooperative Opportunity

Last Tuesday over 50 business leaders from across the Mid Ulster District Council area attended a breakfast briefing organised by Smart Grid Ireland and Queen’s University, Belfast supported by Mid Ulster District Council, to hear more about what how being part of a Zero Carbon Cooperative could support them to achieve innovative solutions to tackle Northern Ireland’s decarbonisation challenge.

The project, titled ‘0ccident’, which is led by Queen’s University Belfast, is funded by the UK Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities through the UK Community Renewal Fund. Queen’s University are seeking to act as enablers, through promoting net  zero carbon cooperatives in local council areas, aiming not only help solve many of Northern Ireland’s energy supply challenges, but also deliver wider benefits for the local economy and the environment.

Those present heard from David Rooney, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Dean of Internationalisation and Reputation at the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, who is leading the 0ccident project, who explained the key drivers and context. Northern Ireland faces a unique challenge – it is a disproportionately large carbon emitter within a UK context. It accounts for over 4 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions, despite accounting for less than 3 per cent of the UK’s total population. Part of the challenge in Northern Ireland is a disproportionately larger agriculture sector than many of its neighbouring countries. It is estimated that some 27 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the sector, significantly higher than the two next highest emitters in the form of transport (23 per cent) and energy supply (15 per cent).

He explained, “Carbon capture is very expensive and NI doesn’t yet have access to the proper infrastructure. Collective engagement is the only solution and so through this programme, we are seeking to actively encourage partnership working that can provide mutual benefits for all involved and for the environment. Occident’s task is to explore suitable solutions for NI and the purpose of this morning’s event is to hear from Mid Ulster businesses about the challenges they are facing and what supports they need to address this critical issue”.

Welcoming those attending the event Councillor Cora Corry, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, said “We are all aware of the growing challenges that each of our businesses face daily from the availability of labour, workforce skills, rising costs and environmental impacts to name a few. However, there is an increasing focus on the importance on the need for decarbonisation, not only on a global basis, but also locally, which is a consideration for many businesses across all sectors.

Lowering our carbon footprint will mean that the goods and services we produce will be more competitive on a global stage and hence be of greater value, thereby stimulating a greater return to the local economy.

This is what Occident aims to do, to explore ways of emission reduction, re-utilisation of waste streams and displaced energy, therefore creating more resilient industries not impacted by geo-political factors, and Mid Ulster offers a unique potential, due to our central location, the scale of the council area and also our diverse range of industry”.

Initial feedback from the companies at the event to Bob Barbour (CEO & Secretariat, Smart Grid Ireland) and Dr. James Young has shown the need and desire for local business to progress and improve competitiveness in the market place while advancing environmental and social value in the Mid Ulster area.

If you were unable to attend the event and would like further information on this initiative please contact bob.barbour@smartgridireland.org

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