First Minister hears how hydrogen can drive NI economy during Wrightbus visit
The production of hydrogen energy in Mid and East Antrim would transform the Northern Ireland economy, the First Minister was told during a visit to manufacturing giant Wrightbus.
Arlene Foster met Wrightbus owner Jo Bamford and the firm's chief executive Buta Atwal to discuss the huge potential hydrogen offers Northern Ireland in terms of investment, economic growth, job creation and greener energy.
Wrightbus currently has orders for 80 hydrogen buses, and the world-renowned coachbuilder has ambitions to set up a facility to make hydrogen fuel locally.
Mr Bamford and Mr Atwal detailed their plans and vision during the meeting with the First Minister, which was facilitated by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley and also attended by Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Peter Johnston and Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Atwal said: "It was a pleasure to show the First Minister just why Wrightbus is at the forefront of the hydrogen economy, and we are grateful for her support.
"Everyone here is committed to delivering a world-leading product which not only creates skilled jobs in Northern Ireland but creates a long-lasting legacy for Wrightbus in this region."
Mr Paisley said: "The potential offered through transforming our current energy systems to hydrogen is huge.
“We are currently looking at buses, but this could be rolled out right across our transport system and communities in the future.
"It is vital that Mid and East Antrim and Northern Ireland seizes the opportunity to lead the way in the hydrogen revolution.
"We have a very real opportunity to position Northern Ireland on a global stage by embracing hydrogen fuel and maximising the significant economic and environmental benefits it will deliver.
"By producing hydrogen locally, we would secure sizeable investment in this area, create jobs, boost our supply chain and really put ourselves on the world map for innovation and manufacturing excellence.
"I thank the First Minister for taking the time to see first-hand the superb facilities at Wrightbus and to hear from Jo and Buta about what needs done in terms of investment and strategy to make this a reality."
The Mayor will update Mid and East Antrim’s Elected Members on the visit at the next meeting of full council.