I propose to take Questions Nos. 580, 582 and 583 together.
The overarching objective of the Government's energy policy is to ensure secure and sustainable supplies of competitively priced electricity to all consumers. The Energy White Paper, published in December 2015, sets out a high-level framework for Ireland's energy transition to a low carbon economy and society and identifies a range of measures and actions to support this aim.
The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive sets Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. Ireland is committed to achieving this target through meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heat and 10% of transport from renewable sources of energy, with the latter target also being legally binding. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has calculated that 25.3% of electricity, 6.5% of heat and 5.7% of transport energy requirements were met from renewable sources at end 2015. Overall, SEAI analysis shows that 9.1% of Ireland’s energy requirements in 2015 were met from renewable sources and that this avoided €286 million of fossil fuel imports. Provisional data for 2016 from SEAI shows that 27.3% of electricity demand was met from renewable sources.
The Government has a range of policy measures and schemes to incentivise the use of renewable energy and although good progress towards the target has been made to date, meeting the 16% target remains challenging. My Department is currently developing a proposed new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) and a new Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Scheme, designed to assist in meeting our RES-E and RES-H targets. The introduction of any new scheme - including the overall costs and technologies to be supported - will be subject to Government approval and State Aid clearance from the European Commission.
In the transport sector, Ireland aims to meet its renewable target mainly through the increased use of sustainable biofuels, with electric vehicles also making a small contribution. Further increases to the obligation rate in the Biofuels Obligation Scheme took effect from 1 January 2017 when the rate increased to 8% by volume.
Budget 2017 has provided over €100 million to support energy projects. This funding will be split between the existing energy efficiency programmes and rolling out a series of new initiatives and pilots that can lay the foundation for increased investment in future years, which will also support employment in the sector.