Newry, Mourne and Down

Newry Mourne and Down was easily the worst council in N.I. for income from renewable energy, despite having  much better solar, hydro and wind resources than any other Council in Northern Ireland. Newry Mourne and Down had less than one third of one percent of of its rates from renewables compared to 9% in Fermanagh and Omagh or ~£5.5 million in 2021. And this despite Fermanagh’s energy resources being a fraction of Newry Mourne and Down’s. (see NI Council revenue league table here)

This Council was the only one in Ireland not able to respond to our Freedom of Information request. We had to contact local Councillors to glean the information needed and ask them to supply it to the Council’s FoI officer, who only then could make a reply – and even then their reply was inaccurate. They have no plan to to transition the Councils operations to the ‘New Economy.

This Council abandoned a highly successful energy efficiency campaign in March of 2017 which was bringing in over £100,000 pa with renewables in many community centres. The energy officer post was left vacant to ‘save’ money in a short-term budget saving ~£30,000pa. Clearly a counterproductive move in a Council with fossil fuel/mains electric energy bills of over £3 million per annum. See the last energy savings report March 2017.

Newry Mourne and Down has no PV or Wind Farms or energy storage facilities of their own. Despite having many suitable brown-field sites. So the Council would not even have to rent land like Councils in GB do to supplement their rates with income from their own PV or wind farms. as is now becoming normal in GB -> see Warrington for instance.  Or West Suffolk who have made a presentation to NM&D Council. Or UK’s biggest Council Energy Storage SchemeHere is a report from Bradford Council that backs up what other GB Councils have found – It is far cheaper and more efficient to ‘go green’ and the ratepayers benefit from the new circular economy.

Like other Councils in N.I., this council has declared a “climate emergency” some years ago while doing nothing to help the transition to the ‘New Economy.. This is to the financial detriment of its ratepayers. In June 2023 it wrote to DfI in a consultation response protesting the need to have mandatory identification of areas for renewable energy in each Council District – it argued for a continuation of the failed previous approach where most of the land areas in the District would be off-limits for renewable energy. see NM&D response here Despite the Mournes National Park report specifically highlighting areas in the Wester Mournes suitable for wind farms to both protect the landscape and to enable the move to renewable energy could both be accomadated.

Our Youth Group is based in this Council area and we have run protests outside the Council HQ at meetings of the Council. See Energy Campaign Page. These demos have resulted in Councillors adopting financial targets for rates as well as targets for EV charging points across the Councils 8000 parking bays spread over 181 car parks. This Council has the largest land area in NI and only has 6 working charging points in 2022.

Both these targets have been ignored by Council management. We are canvassing the party leaders in Council to see how they are going to address the Senior Management Team in Council.

It is clear that when the transition in energy sources is complete in N.I., there will be up to an average of ~£20 million pa in rates for each of the 11 Councils in N.I..  SEE THIS ANALYSIS On current form, it is very unlikely that Newry Mourne and Down will realise their share of what will be the fastest growing area in rates income over the next 10 years and thus unlikely to reap the full benefit of the transition in savings and in additional income or local well-paid jobs for young people like us.

We have learned a lot these last 2 years. We now know the full potential of Councils in Northern Ireland to benefit their ratepayers in dealing with Climate Change. These powers are considerable, even though they are not as extensive as Councils in Britain and the Republic of Ireland.  N.I. Councils have, collectively MORE power than the Northern Irish Regional Assembly at Stormont in Belfast.  SEE HERE for the 2023 template where we are more thoroughly and extensively vetting councils. 

How do we know this information?

In Northern Ireland, we found that the Department of Finance was very helpful, providing a full breakdown of rates by council on each type of renewable energy project. Here are the 3 freedom of information replies we got from them.

  1. Rates for every type of renewable energy project by Council
  2. Rates for fossil fuel generators by Council (no nuclear in NI)
  3. Overall rates for each Council area.

Council’s Reply

See Newry, Mourne and Down’s reply; Council’s response.

Data Summary

See the breakdown summary of the Council here:

Annual £
Rates Income from Renewable Energy Projects £185,247
Income from Council’s own renewable energy £18,252
Cumulative annualised savings from energy savings campaign £84,560
Savings from the electrification of Council’s vehicle fleet £0
Rates Income from fossil fuel/nuclear electricity plants £0
Rates Income from grid infrastructure and related plant £0
Total  £288,059