Ex-post Evaluation of the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO)
The Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO) is the main financial support mechanism for renewable energy generation in Northern Ireland between 2005 and 2017. NIRO’s objectives are to incentivise renewables development, increase the proportion of electricity consumption generated from renewable sources, keep the costs of supporting renewables to an absolute minimum and support rural diversification.
Steer-ED was commissioned by the Department for the Economy (DfE) to evaluate the NIRO from its introduction in 2005 to its complete closure to new capacity in 2019. The evaluation was intended to identify whether the NIRO’s objectives of increasing electricity consumption from renewable sources, reducing carbon emissions and encouraging rural diversification were achieved. The evaluation’s remit was both process and impact evaluation, investigating the impact and Value for Money of the NIRO and drawing in process learning in terms of ‘how’ the scheme was delivered.
Our project team conducted a mixed methods work programme to probe the key components of the NIRO’s intervention logic model. The methodology comprised four phases: Inception and Scoping, Secondary Research; Primary Research; Analysis; and Reporting. Key research methods included quantitative analysis of electricity consumption, renewable energy, cost and revenue data; a survey of generators; and stakeholder interviews with government representatives, trade associations and electricity suppliers.
The evaluation resulted in a report of key findings, conclusions and recommendations. The evaluation concluded that NIRO achieved its key intentions of incentivising renewables development and increasing renewable electricity consumption and that NIRO demonstrated Value for Money overall, with both jobs created and greenhouse gas emissions saved. In addition, the evaluation provided recommendations to shape the future design and implementation of financial support mechanisms for renewable energy generation in Northern Ireland.