Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (379)

Robert Troy


379. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Bord na Móna recently issued a public request for tender seeking expressions of interest for market soundings in relation to wind energy direct export from Ireland to Great Britain; if this is part of a scheme to build up Bord na Móna assets and interests with a view to privatisation; and when and how the outcome of this public request for tender will be released. [12545/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Earlier this year a Memorandum of Understanding on energy co-operation between the UK and Ireland was signed which 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. 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.

There are currently a number of potential project developers that have expressed interest in renewable export. In terms of our negotiations with the UK, we have not yet determined or agreed the selection process for potential joint projects, which will be a further matter to be discussed and negotiated in the coming year. Any such selection process will, of course, be open and transparent. It is in this context that Bord na Móna recently published a notice on etenders to establish market soundings with a view to exploring the possibility of collaborating with other market participants on a major renewable energy export project. This was not a public request for tenders nor a competition call and Bord na Móna clearly states that no decision to proceed with such a project has in fact been made.

Bord na Móna’s traditional peat business is in decline and due to environmental and climate change concerns, the company has embarked on its “New Contract with Nature” strategy, designed to transition the company towards a new more sustainable business. Reducing its dependence on peat and maximising on opportunities in the low carbon economy are the core drivers of Bord na Móna’s transformation under its “New Contract with Nature”. Bord na Móna has set objectives for the Group over the next 15 to 20 years to transform each of its business units, to be a leading provider of sustainable products and services both nationally and internationally. It is vital for Ireland to grasp the opportunities for underpinning economic growth through sustainable, competitive energy policy.

Bord na Móna’s ongoing strategy of diversification and commitment to sustainability is a key driver in the development of installed wind energy capacity at existing cut away bog sites and the company is progressing a number of significant wind farm projects on its properties. The recent notice to determine “market soundings” is a further move in exploring future opportunities consistent with its diversification strategy.

In 2012 the Government announced a programme of State asset disposals which is currently progressing and which includes the sale of Bord Gáis Éireann’s energy business and some of ESB’s non-strategic power generation capacity. Bord na Móna is not part of the State asset disposal process.