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Joe Kennedy III says NI access to UK and EU economies gives it ‘unparalleled opportunity’ in path to net zero

Published on 21 June 2023

US Special Envoy Joe Kennedy III has said Northern Ireland’s special access to the UK and EU economies gives it an “unparalleled opportunity” in the move towards net zero.

President Joe Biden’s appointee joined Scott Woodard, director of energy transformation at the US State Department and Dr Jayne Brady, head of the NI Civil Service, among keynote speakers at the NI Energy Summit on Wednesday.

Mr Kennedy told the event at ICC Belfast that he had been appointed as Special Envoy to NI for Economic Affairs to “double-down on the US commitment to spreading prosperity” around NI.

And he described the move towards net zero as “a global fight, and every country and every community must do its part”.

“The US, in fact, has much to learn from Northern Ireland.

“Over the last year, 48.5 per cent of Northern Ireland’s electricity was renewably generated. A great deal of that power came from harnessing the wind. Other renewable sources, including solar and geo-thermal, have increased over 27 per cent in the last five years.

“The transition is challenging. But you are already well positioned to not just power the transition at home but to lead it abroad. With unique access to the economies of both Europe and the UK, you have an unparalleled opportunity to innovate.”

As Special Envoy, Mr Kennedy said he was able to “bring good news back to American investors about the opportunities here, such as net zero technologies”.

He added: “High tech, financial services, medical devices, and cybersecurity are just a few where the ties are particularly strong between the US and Northern Ireland.”

The NI Energy Summit was led by the Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy (CASE), in partnership with corporate law firm A&L Goodbody, NIE Networks, SONI and Transmission Investment.

Jayne Brady, head of the NI Civil Service, said: “Northern Ireland is small, but we have the potential to be a giant player in clean energy and low carbon tech and we need to ensure the economic benefits of our future success reach every person and every place.

“This will be a challenge but we all must step up. We have a golden chance to leverage our expertise and passion for innovation and engineering in order to deliver lasting generational transformation for people here.”

Mike Brennan, Permanent Secretary of the Department for the Economy, said: “Our Energy Strategy – The Path to Net Zero – sets out a vision to deliver self-sufficiency in affordable renewable energy for Northern Ireland.

"Through the strategy and associated action plans, we will grow the skills base for the low carbon economy, providing opportunities for our younger people to be the engine room for our growth.

"In turn this will help realise our 10X Economic Vision to position Northern Ireland as one of the world’s leading small economies.”