Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Questions (386, 387)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

386. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason the development of wave energy potential off the western seaboard is not being prioritised in efforts to increase electricity generation from renewables; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5171/14]

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Michelle Mulherin

Question:

387. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will report on the findings to date of ESB International in respect of its offshore monitoring and wave testing off the coast of County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5172/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 386 and 387 together.

I will shortly be publishing an Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP). Informed by the findings of a Strategic Environmental Assessment, the OREDP will set out how best to coordinate action across the environmental, energy and economic development policy areas in order to realise Ireland's abundant offshore renewable energy potential, including that of wave energy.

It is clear from the work that my Department has been undertaking to develop the OREDP, that cross cutting action is required to maintain support for the ocean energy sector, which includes both wave and tidal technologies, if it is to reach commercial viability. Full coordination across government departments and agencies on areas such as environmental monitoring, research and development, consenting procedures, infrastructure requirements and enterprise development, will all be critical to realising the potential of this sector as a source of sustainable employment and economic growth, especially in those coastal communities where job creation initiatives would be particularly welcomed.

My Department already supports ocean energy through the funding for the Ocean Energy Development Unit in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which administers the Prototype Development Fund, designed to support the development and deployment of both wave and tidal energy devices. The SEAI has also been allocated €5 million for the development of the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS), which will be a site of international importance for open sea testing of wave energy devices. In conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, my Department also provides funding for the Integrated Maritime Energy Research Centre (IMERC) in Cork. A partnership between UCC, Cork Institute of Technology and the Irish Naval Service, IMERC is developing an integrated maritime research and enterprise centre at its campus at Ringaskiddy in Cork, which includes internationally recognised expertise in ocean energy. In total, my Department has allocated €26.3 million in funding for ocean energy for the period 2013 to 2016.

I understand ESB International has provided engineering expertise to the SEAI in the development of the AMETS project. The ESB is also developing the Westwave Project, which aims to deploy a demonstration wave energy installation off the west coast by 2018. For this project, the ESB has successfully completed a year of monitoring of the wave characteristics off the Mayo coast. They also collaborated with the INFOMAR Programme, a joint programme of the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Marine Institute, to survey the seabed in the area. I understand that the preliminary results of this work have been published in an Environmental Scoping Report available on the ESB's website, www.westwave.ie.