The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive set Ireland a binding target of meeting at least 16% of our energy requirement from renewable sources by 2020. As part of the strategy to meet this overall target, Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand from renewable generation by 2020. It is estimated that this will require the installation of between 3,500 and 4,000 MW of renewable generation. Currently there is just over 2,000 MW of renewable generation capacity installed on the Irish electricity system.
I understand that 25 MW of offshore wind generation is currently operational, and that, under the Gate 3 process, around 800 MW of offshore wind projects have received grid connection offers. 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.
With regard to Ireland’s potential to produce renewable electricity beyond the level required by the 2020 target, expert advice suggests that Ireland has the capability to achieve our national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone. However, in addition, it is widely recognised that Ireland has an excellent and abundant renewable energy resource – both onshore and offshore – which has the potential to produce amounts of renewable electricity significantly in excess of the amounts required to meet our 2020 target.
It is in this context that the opportunity to harness this resource for the export market, and realise its potential for investment, job creation and economic growth has been identified. Following my signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation with my UK counterpart on 24 January this year, detailed consideration of how Ireland’s onshore and offshore wind resources might be developed for export to the UK is now underway, with a view to determining if it is beneficial for both countries to enter into an Inter-Governmental Agreement. Though it is ambitious, the target for completion of this work is early 2014, with a view to electricity being exported to the UK by 2020 in order to be counted towards the UK’s national target under the Renewables Directive.
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 offshore renewable energy potential, using both existing offshore wind, and emerging ocean, renewable technologies.