Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Questions (16)

Charlie McConalogue


16. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way his Department can assist the development of biomass and wave energy power stations here; if any actions are planned by his Department in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35061/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The REFIT scheme for biomass (REFIT3), which was opened in February 2012, is designed to incentivise the addition of 310 MW of renewable electricity capacity to the Irish electricity grid. The technologies being supported include anaerobic digestion and biomass combined heat and power. REFIT3 also provides incentives for co-firing of biomass in peat powered generation plants.

The scheme operates by guaranteeing a minimum price for renewable electricity generated and sent to the grid over a 15 year period. The REFIT schemes are funded through the Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy which is paid for by all electricity consumers. Separate to the above, public funding has been allocated to the wave and tidal energy sector in recent years. This sector is still at the research and development phase and is not yet commercially viable. However, Ireland has some of the best ocean energy resources in Europe. Much work has been done across Government to identify the potential of this sector. The Strategy for Renewable Energy, the Research Prioritisation Report and ‘Harnessing our Ocean Wealth’, the Government’s integrated Marine Plan for Ireland, all identify Ireland’s potential to become an international leader in research, development and innovation for ocean energy.

A range of supports have been deployed since 2009 in support of wave and tidal development. The cumulative amount of expenditure on Ocean Energy in the period 2009 – 2013, including the estimated 2013 allocation, is almost 21 million euro.

The Ocean Energy Development Unit in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has been taking forward the development of the sector through administration of a Prototype Development Fund of grants for industry, aimed at supporting industry led development and deployment of ocean energy devices and systems. SEAI is currently holding a call for expressions of interest and applications for this fund.

SEAI has been allocated funding by my Department to progress development of the grid connected wave test site – known as the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site or AMETS – off County Mayo. In April this year I launched a call for expressions of interest from organisations wishing to use AMETS at the SEAI Energy Show. The call remains open with SEAI, and I understand the first memorandum of understanding has already been signed by the SEAI with an interested company.

Other supports for the sector include support for Irish Maritime Energy Research Cluster (IMERC), which is seeing the upgrading of the Beaufort Laboratory as part of the IMERC campus at Ringaskiddy in Cork. This work, which is being part-funded by my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will see a re-housing of the wave tank facility and will bring together researchers in the area currently based in the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) and the Coastal and Marine Research Centre (CMRC), as part of a broader campus approach with the Naval College, UCC and Cork Institute of Technology.

All of these developments are critical to ensure that Ireland provides the world class research and deployment infrastructure necessary to support the future development of the ocean energy sector, and realise the potential it holds for sustainable economic growth and job creation, not least in our coastal communities which are among those areas most in need of economic stimulus.

Finally, my Department is currently finalising an Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan. The process began with the carrying out of a Strategic Environmental Assessment. Informed by the findings of the SEA, the OREDP will identify how best to coordinate action across the environmental, energy and economic development policy areas in order to best facilitate the realisation of Ireland’s abundant ocean energy potential.