Development in the renewable energy sector in Ireland is underpinned by a clear policy framework. Under the Renewable Energy Directive, Ireland is required to increase renewable energy from 3.1% in 2005 to 16% in 2020, with a minimum target of 10% in the transport sector. Energy is consumed across the transport, heating and electricity sectors. At the end of 2012, we had reached 6.4% of overall energy consumption from renewable sources. Our intention is to reach our overall target through 40% renewable electricity, 10% renewable transport and 12% renewable heating, which together amount to 16% of all energy consumption.
Under the directive, Ireland was required to set out in a National Renewable Energy Action Plan, NREAP, the trajectory towards meeting its legally binding target. The action plan and the first progress report on it, which are available on my Department’s website, show the sectoral and technology breakdown that we anticipate in the achievement of our target. Wind-generated electricity is expected to play a major role. At the end of 2012, approximately 19.5% of our electricity consumption was from renewable sources. My Department’s Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012 to 2020 has the strategic goal of having progressively more renewable electricity from onshore and offshore wind power for domestic and export markets.
Feed-in tariffs are the primary support mechanism for wind energy in Ireland. REFIT 2, which was launched last year, is designed to incentivise the addition of up to 4,000 MW of new renewable electricity capacity to the Irish grid from onshore wind, hydro and biomass landfill gas technologies. Plants must be new plants in all cases, neither built nor under construction on 1 January 2010. Projects must be operational by the end of 2017. The support for any particular project cannot exceed 15 years and may not extend beyond 31 December 2032.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The recent conclusion of the SEM consultations on dispatch and scheduling affords the opportunity to move on with the wind farm developments we require. Eirgrid is now in a position to commence issuing constraint reports in respect of Gate 3. This will allow developers to make decisions on their Gate 3 offers. Recent changes that I announced to REFIT 1 and REFIT 2 will further facilitate this development.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, published a report entitled, Energy in Ireland, in November 2012. That report gives an estimated figure of approximately €300 million in avoided national gas imports from the use of all renewable energies in the generation of electricity in 2011. Wind generation alone would account for an estimated €240 million of the €300 million in avoided gas imports.
The memorandum of understanding on energy co-operation that the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Mr. Edward Davey and I signed on 24 January will result in completion of consideration of how Irish renewable energy resources, both onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of Ireland and the United Kingdom. This will determine whether it is beneficial for both countries to enter into an inter-governmental agreement under the Renewable Energy Directive to provide for renewable energy trading.
If an inter-governmental agreement is entered into, there are potential significant employment opportunities. As an example, employment creation arising from a 3,000 MW project would be expected to be in the order of 3,000 to 6,000 job years in the construction phase, with the actual number dependent on the construction schedule to 2020. There would also be additional jobs created in the ongoing maintenance of turbines over a 20-year operating life. Further employment opportunities could arise if turbines or components were to be manufactured in Ireland. All relevant State agencies, particularly in the enterprise area, would have to co-ordinate their activities early in the process to ensure employment potential of export projects is maximised. This opportunity has already been identified by the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland in their clean technology growth strategies.
A technical review of the wind energy guidelines is being overseen by officials from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, my Department and the SEAI. This review will examine the manner in which the guidelines address key issues of community concern such as noise, including separation distance, and shadow flicker. It will be completed this year.