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 sectorial 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. At the end of May this year, the total amount of renewable generation capacity connected to the grid was just over 2,000 MW.
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. There are a number of policy measures in place designed to incentivise the development necessary to meet Ireland’s renewable energy obligations. These policy measures, which take into account the long term nature of energy investments, are underpinned by an appropriate regulatory regime.
The primary support mechanisms for renewable electricity are the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) schemes. These schemes are designed to provide certainty to renewable electricity generators by providing them with a minimum floor price for each unit of electricity exported to the grid over a defined period. Using a fixed feed in tariff mechanism, the certainty afforded by a guaranteed minimum price allows developers to access finance for renewable developments.
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.
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.