Energy firm failing to communicate with farmers over renewables

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has expressed disappointment over poor communication between NIE Networks and farmers over changes to engineering standards on renewable energy installations, many of which are on poultry farms.

The business has written to 1500 small-scale renewable generators about changes to what is known as the G59 protection setting on their installations. This is an engineering standard applied to all electricity generators to eliminate ‘nuisance tripping’ of circuits, for example.  This is a simple change, provided relays can cope with the new setting.  However, the UFU said communications had been poor, with farmers reporting that when contacting NIE Network, staff are not aware of the letters or what they mean for farmers.  UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, said this has created unnecessary concern among farmers and has been frustrating to say the least.

The UFU said it is seeking assurances about fairness of treatment between farmers and other power generators, together with clarity as to the benefit of any changes to the small-scale renewable sector. 

“We have been told that local power stations were incentivised to make the changes, whilst the wind farms will benefit from not having to curtail power,” said Chestnutt adding that the financial consequences are significant.  “This change could produce grid savings of up to £13 million, but with no obvious nor confirmed benefit to the smaller scale generators represented by the UFU.”

The UFU said this could be a dangerous precedent, with small-scale renewable generators hit by further retrospective, costly policy changes. The UFU has requested a meeting with the Utility Regulator to discuss the issue further.

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