In May 2002, my Department established Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, to promote and assist environmentally and economically sustainable production, supply and use of energy, in support of Government policy, across all sectors of the economy. Its remit relates mainly to improving energy efficiency, advancing the development and competitive deployment of renewable sources of energy and combined heat and power, and reducing the environmental impact of energy production and use. SEI is charged with implementing significant aspects of the Green Paper on Sustainable Energy and the national climate change strategy. Included in this remit is the task of promoting further research, development and demonstration of renewable energy technologies and alternative fuels.
In December 2003 my Department, in association with SEI, established a bio-energy strategy group, BSG, to consider the policy options and support mechanisms available to stimulate increased use of biomass for energy conversion and electricity generation and to make specific recommendations for action to increase the penetration of biomass energy in Ireland. The group is scheduled to complete a strategy report for consideration by the end of 2004. Membership of the BSG comprises representatives of various Departments as well as State agencies in the agriculture and energy sectors and industry representatives. This report will contain a road map for development of bio-energy with the identification of staged, achievable targets and will link directly into the work of the renewables development group which was set up in May 2004.
An interdepartmental group has also been set up by my Department to develop a bio-fuels strategy for Ireland. The group comprises officials from my Department, Sustainable Energy Ireland, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and the Departments of Transport, Agriculture and Food, and Finance. The group is considering policy options for the development of a bio-fuels sector in Ireland and to increase the penetration of bio-fuels in the transport fuel market.
My Department's support mechanism, the alternative energy requirement, AER, programme, has operated to date to increase the contribution from renewable energy technologies in electricity production. The underlying principle of the alternative energy requirement competitions as operated to date is that prospective generators are invited to make a formal application to build, own and operate newly installed renewable energy-based electricity generating plants, and to supply electricity from these to the ESB under a power purchase agreement of up to 15 years.