I propose to take Questions Nos. 27, 45 and 46 together.
The overarching objective of the Government's energy policy is to ensure secure and sustainable supplies of competitively priced energy to all consumers. Ireland is currently heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. While it is acknowledged that fossil fuels will remain part of the energy mix for some time to come, progress is being made towards increasing the share of renewable energy in our energy requirements.
The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive set Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. In order to meet this target, Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heating and 10% of transport power from renewable sources, with the transport target also being legally binding. The Directive also requires that Member States set out in a National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) their trajectories towards meeting these targets. Ireland's NREAP, which can be downloaded from my Department's website, assumes Ireland's 16% target will be met incrementally at around 1% per annum. Provisional figures for 2012 indicate that 6.9% of our overall energy requirements were met from renewable sources, made up of 19.5% in electricity, 5.1% in heat and 2.3% in transport. A second progress report on the NREAP is due for completion by the end of this year.
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. At the end of quarter three this year, the total amount of renewable generation connected to the grid was just over 2,100 MW. It is estimated that a total of between 3,500 and 4,000 MW of onshore renewable generation capacity will be required to allow Ireland to meet its 40% renewable electricity target. The primary support mechanisms for renewable electricity in Ireland are the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) schemes. In order to facilitate the rate of build of renewable generation capacity required to meet the 2020 target, a number of changes to the REFIT 1 and 2 schemes were introduced in 2013. Full details of the revised terms and conditions of these schemes can be found on my Department's website. Currently, 3,000 MW of renewable generation has taken up connection offers under the Gate 3 grid connection programme.
Renewable heat deployment is underpinned by current policies such as REFIT3 which supports Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants, ensuring an increase not only in the amount of heat from renewable sources but also in the amount renewable electricity produced. This builds on the increases in renewable heat which were achieved by the Greener Homes Scheme, the Renewable Heat Deployment Programme (ReHeat) and the CHP Deployment Programme. In the transport sector, the penetration of renewable energy will grow mainly with the increased use of sustainable biofuels but also from the deployment of electric vehicles. My Department is also currently finalising a Bioenergy Strategy following intensive cross-Departmental and stakeholder engagement. The strategy will set out the actions required to optimise the contribution that energy from biomass can make to the 2020 renewable energy targets.
As we look beyond 2020 and towards the goal of a low carbon energy system, the need to expand the renewable generation portfolio is apparent. This will include technologies still at the pre-commercial stage such as wave and tidal, and their development will be considered in the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan which will be published shortly by my Department. In addition, analysis undertaken by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland of the case for support for solar power is currently under review.
As regards planning guidelines for the wind energy sector, the development of all wind farms in Ireland is subject to planning legislation, which include requirements for public consultation. In addition, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in conjunction with my Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, is undertaking a review of the Wind Energy Guidelines which will address the key issues of noise (including separation distance) and shadow flicker. Draft guidelines will be published for public consultation by end-November 2013 with a view to finalising guidelines by mid–2014. The revised guidelines will apply to all wind farm development in Ireland.
Ireland's excellent renewable energy potential can also be developed for export. Expert advice and evidence shows that Ireland has the capability to achieve its national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone, with capacity to spare. Work is progressing very well on signing an Inter-Governmental Agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom in early 2014 to facilitate trade in renewable energy. This means that there is potential for projects of scale aimed at export markets. Planning permission for such projects, which will be determined by An Bord Pleanála, must await the putting in place of a clear national planning policy framework and I have asked my Department to prepare such a framework. The policy framework will provide the opportunity to integrate relevant EU Directive requirements (including Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment), trans-boundary dimensions and stakeholder participation within the context of a national framework.
The outcome will be a high level development framework taking its lead from the Inter-Governmental Agreement, EU Directive requirements and relevant national, regional and local planning policy considerations in conjunction with wider policies, objectives and requirements. It will incorporate a vision and strategy coupled with technical parameters and a spatial element. The development of the framework will be progressed by my Department over the 12 to 15 months and will provide confidence and certainty for all stakeholders through an open, fair, balanced and consultative process. The initial phase of public consultation has now commenced and all interested parties and members of the public have been formally invited to make written submissions on the export project which will be taken into consideration in preparing the framework. Details can be found on a new dedicated section on my Department's website, exclusive to the project, and which will be updated as the project progresses.