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. The intention is to reach Ireland’s overall target through 40% renewable electricity, 10% renewable heating and 12% renewable transport, which together amount to 16% of all energy consumption.
This is set out in our National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) and First Progress Report on the NREAP, which are both available on my Department’s website. At end 2011, 6.4% of overall energy consumption from renewable sources had been achieved, so a further increase of 9.6% across the three sectors is required in the years to 2020 if Ireland’s target is to be achieved.
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. For wind generation alone this would account for approximately an estimated €240 million of the €300 million in avoided gas imports.
The SEAI Modelling Unit estimate, subject to a variety of assumptions, that fossil fuel dependency in Ireland may be reduced by up to 14% due to the energy efficiency measures and by a further 15% by renewable energy policy in the year 2020. They have, however, also noted that a significant portion of biofuels and biomass may be imported in that period.
With regard to potential energy exports, the Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation that UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey and I signed on 24 January will result in completion of consideration of how Irish renewable energy resources, 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 3,000MW 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 coordinate 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.