A Renewable Energy Export Policy and Development Framework (with a spatial dimension) is currently being prepared by my Department and will facilitate An Bord Pleanála in making planning decisions on individual proposed renewable energy developments, regardless of location, of significant scale for export. It will be underpinned by a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which is a formal, systematic evaluation of the likely significant environmental effects of implementing a plan or programme before a decision is made to adopt the plan or programme. The SEA will be carried out by my Department based on the findings of an Environmental Report. This is in accordance with the provisions of the relevant EU legislation, including Directive 2001/42/EC and the European Communities (Environmental Assessment of Certain Plans and Programmes) Regulations, 2004, as amended by the European Communities (Environmental Assessment of Certain Plans and Programmes) (Amendment) Regulations, 2011.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) differs from an SEA in that it is an environmental assessment examining the impact a particular development project, such as a wind farm, will have on the receiving and surrounding environment. The EIA is carried out by the appropriate competent planning authority on a project specific basis. Typically, an individual wind farm project is subject to an EIA where the wind farm has greater than 5 turbines or a generating capacity greater than 5MW. Therefore, any party wishing to submit a planning application for a proposed project of significant scale for renewable energy export will be required to compile an Environmental Impact Statement to support the application. In considering such applications, An Bord Pleanála will take account of the Renewable Energy Export Policy and Development Framework underpinned by the SEA completed by my Department, as well as the project level EIA, before making its decision on whether or not to grant planning permission.
EirGrid, as with any public or private sector organisation, is required to comply with all EU Directives on environmental and appropriate assessment in progressing transmission projects, including Grid West, through the planning process.