I propose to take Questions Nos. 236, 246 and 247 together.
The 2014 National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development sets out an ambitious long-term commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Ireland across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; and in parallel, to pursue an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.
The 2015 Energy White Paper presents a long-term strategic vision that is intended to guide the direction of Irish energy policy from now until 2030. At its heart is a commitment to transform Ireland into a low carbon society and economy by 2050 and reduce the country’s fossil fuel dependency. This ambitious vision for Ireland’s energy system envisages a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from that sector by 80-95% relative to 1990 levels by 2050. The White Paper identifies the long-term strategic importance of diversifying Ireland's energy generation portfolio and largely decarbonising the energy sector by 2050. It also recognises that oil and natural gas will remain significant elements of Ireland’s energy supply in that transition period.
In 2016, imported fossil fuels accounted for 69% of our energy needs at a cost of €3.4 billion. Given the inextricable link between energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, achievement of the commitments set out in the National Policy Position and the Energy White Paper will require a significant transformation of Ireland’s energy system from being predominantly fossil-fuel based to a clean, low carbon energy system.
As a means of addressing this challenge, the 2017 National Mitigation Plan sets out over 70 individual mitigation measures and 106 related actions to reduce emissions in the electricity generation, built environment, transport and agriculture sectors.
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 most recent annual data from the SEAI indicates that 27.2% of electricity, 6.8% of heat and 5.0% of transport energy requirements were met from renewable sources at end 2016. Overall, SEAI analysis shows that 9.5% of Ireland’s energy requirements in 2016 were met from renewable sources. The SEAI projects that Ireland will achieve between 13.2% and 15.4% of its 16% renewable energy target by 2020, indicating that Ireland should be between 82% and 96% of its target.
While the focus of my Department remains firmly on meeting our 2020 renewable target and on implementation of renewable energy measures, including the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme and the Support Scheme for Renewal Heat, contingency planning has commenced to explore the potential extent, mechanisms and costs of addressing our targets within the framework of the 2009 Directive.
Any requirement for the purchase of statistical transfers under the Directive to meet compliance would be undertaken against a background of discussions by the Irish authorities with the EU Commission and relevant Member States. As any purchases arising would be made over a period, the costs to the Exchequer of acquiring statistical transfers to meet any potential shortfall would be spread over a period of more than one year and in any event the cumulative costs would not be known until 2021, the deadline for completion of all purchases.