The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive set Ireland a binding target where at least 16% of our energy requirements should come from renewable sources by 2020. In order to meet our overall 16% requirement, Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heating and 10% of transport from renewable sources.
Though these targets are challenging, I am confident that they can be met. My Department’s Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012 to 2020 sets out the key strategic goals for the various renewable energy sectors in the context of Ireland’s EU obligations.
In addition, under the Directive, Ireland was required to set out in a National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) the trajectory towards meeting its legally binding targets. The NREAP and the First Progress Report on the NREAP, which are available on my Department’s website, show the sectoral and technology breakdown that we anticipate in the achievement of our target.
By the end of 2011, we had reached 6.4% of overall energy consumption from renewable sources and the trajectory set out in the NREAP assumes that we will achieve the 16% target incrementally at approximately 1% per annum.
At end 2012, 19.5% approximately of our electricity consumption was from renewable sources.
In 2012 15.5% of Ireland’s electricity demand was met by wind generation. By the end of quarter one 2013 1,763 MW of wind generation capacity was connected to the grid, with 238 MW of hydro power and 71 MW of smaller renewable sources (mainly landfill gas and biomass).
To date, wind energy has been the largest driver of growth in renewable electricity, contributing most towards the achievement of the 2020 target. However, if we are to reach that target, the build rate of onshore wind farms must accelerate from an historic average of 180 MW per year to at least 250 MW per year. It was for this reason that I decided to amend the terms of REFIT 2 to extend the closing date for applications to 31 December 2015, with projects required to be built by the end of December 2017. Support under REFIT 2 cannot exceed 15 years and will not extend beyond the end of December 2032.
In order to take a structured approach to connecting the necessary amounts of renewable generation to the grid, the Commission for Energy Regulation established the Gate 3 process. Under this process, grid connection offers have been made to around 3,900 MW of renewable generation, the bulk of which is wind. It is now a matter for project developers to accept or reject these offers in the coming months.