While the Government will continue to develop policies and actions aimed at increasing our security of supply, addressing our dependence on imported fossil fuels and achieving a more secure energy mix, while capitalising on indigenous renewable energy sources, it would not be realistic to expect that Ireland would become totally energy self-sufficient in the foreseeable future.
A well-balanced fuel mix that provides reliable energy, minimises costs, and protects against supply disruptions and extreme price spikes, is an essential foundation for Irish enterprise and consumers. Our choices on the nature, type, and origin of fuels we use to provide heating, facilitate transport and generate electricity are profoundly important to our energy and decarbonisation policy objectives. Ireland has made significant progress towards achieving our legally binding target of 16% renewable energy by 2020, with overall renewable penetration at 7% in 2012. Further work will be necessary to realise the 2020 objective. Alongside our renewable targets, oil and gas remain a critical component of our energy mix, providing 76% of primary energy requirement in 2012. The Government has also put in place a set of supports, ranging from capital supports for certain types of renewable energy technology, across the industrial, institutional and industrial sectors. These include the REFIT Scheme, a fixed feed in tariff system, which is leveraging investment in renewable electricity capacity, which is critical to Ireland delivering our targets under the Renewable Energy Directive.
Ireland has excellent renewable energy resources, which will be a critical and growing component of Irish energy supply to 2020 and well beyond. Indigenous renewable energy plays a vital role in the country’s domestic fuel mix, increasing sustainability through the use of clean power sources and enhancing energy security by reducing Ireland’s dependence on imported fuels. Wind, bio-energy and ocean energy could yield additional economic opportunities for both Irish workers and businesses. Under the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, Ireland is committed to produce at least 16% of all energy consumed from renewable sources by 2020. This will be met by 40% from renewable electricity, 12% from renewable heat, and 10% from renewable transport sector. The ambition to have 40% of electricity consumed from renewable sources by 2020 is one of the most demanding in the world.
Looking to the longer term, my Department is participating in the low carbon road-mapping process envisaged in the planned Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill. I have published a scoping report on a low carbon roadmap for the electricity generation sector that details how my Department will pursue the development of a roadmap for the electricity generation sector to 2050.
The SEAI publication ‘Energy Forecasts for Ireland to 2020’ projects annual primary fuel requirement through to 2020, assuming that Ireland meets current renewable energy and energy efficiency targets set by the EU. These projections, which are available on the SEAI website, show that Ireland will remain dependent on fossil fuels in the medium term. Oil and gas will remain central to the economy, particularly in the heating and transport sectors, until affordable, secure and viable alternatives become available. In the intervening period, certain fuels, including gas, will enable the transition to a low-carbon economy.