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 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.
To date, wind energy has been the largest driver of growth in renewable electricity, contributing most towards the achievement of the 2020 target. In 2012 15.5% of Ireland’s electricity demand was met by wind generation. By the end of quarter one 2013 1,763 MW (megawatts) of wind generation capacity was connected to the grid.
The primary support mechanisms for renewable electricity are the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) schemes. Under REFIT 2 a total of 4,000 MW can be supported. In order to ensure the necessary incentives are in place to encourage the level of investment required to maintain the rate of build of onshore wind necessary to meet our national target for renewable electricity, earlier this year 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.
It is estimated that between 3,500 and 4,000 MW of renewable generation capacity will be required to allow Ireland meet its 40% renewable electricity target. Currently, just over 2,000 MW of renewable generation is connected to the grid in Ireland. Under the Gate 3 grid connection process, grid connection offers have now issued to just under 4,000 MW of renewable generation, the bulk of which is wind. Under Gate 3 rules, generators must accept an offer within 50 business days of its receipt. I understand that Gate 3 acceptances are scheduled to complete in October this year.
Expert advice suggests that Ireland has the capability to achieve our national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone. However, the opportunity for Ireland to harness our excellent and abundance renewable energy resources and realise their export potential for investment, job creation and economic growth has also been identified and is being pursued with the UK government. It should be noted that electricity exported from Ireland would not require back up on the Irish grid, as only generation in excess of that required to meet national demand levels and security of supply standards would be exported.
With regard to the question of conventional generation required to support intermittent renewable energy such as wind, I refer the Deputy to the All Island Electricity Capacity Statement 2013 to 2022 published by EirGrid and the Northern Ireland Transmission System Operator, SONI, earlier this year. The Capacity Statement examines the expected electricity demand, and level of generation capacity forecast to be available, over the following 10 year period to establish the outlook for generation adequacy in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Based on analysis of factors such as increasing levels of renewables and changes in the conventional generation portfolio, the statement forecasts that Ireland’s generation adequacy outlook is positive for each of the next 10 years.