I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 11 together.
The 2009 EU renewable energy directive set Ireland a binding target where at least 16% of our energy requirements should come from renewable sources by 2020. In order to meet our overall 16% requirement, Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heating and 10% of transport from renewable sources. Although these targets are challenging, I am confident they can be met. My Department's strategy for renewable energy for the 2012 to 2020 period sets out the key strategic goals for the various renewable energy sectors in the context of Ireland's EU obligations.
In addition, under the directive, Ireland is required to set out in a national renewable energy action plan, NREAP, the trajectory towards meeting its legally binding targets. The NREAP and the first progress report on the NREAP, which are available on my Department's website, show the sectoral and technology breakdown that we anticipate in the achievement of our target. By the end of 2011, we had reached 6.4% of overall energy consumption from renewable sources and the trajectory set out in the NREAP assumes that we will achieve the 16% target incrementally at approximately 1% per annum.
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. By the end of the first quarter
of 2013, 1,763 MW of wind generation capacity was connected to the grid. At the end of May this year, the total amount of renewable generation capacity connected to the grid was just over 2,000 MW. It is estimated that between 3,500 and 4,000 MW of renewable generation capacity will be required to allow Ireland meet its 40% renewable electricity target.
Under the gate 3 grid connection process, grid connection offers have now issued to just under 4,000 MW of renewable generation, the bulk of which is wind. I understand that gate 3 acceptances are scheduled to complete in October this year. These acceptances will give further momentum to meeting the renewable generation target.
There are a number of policy measures in place designed to incentivise the development necessary to meet Ireland's renewable energy obligations. The primary support mechanisms for renewable electricity are the renewable energy feed-in tariff, REFIT, schemes. These schemes are designed to provide certainty to renewable electricity generators by providing them with a minimum floor price for each unit of electricity exported to the grid over a defined period. Using a fixed feed-in tariff mechanism, the certainty afforded by a guaranteed minimum price allows developers to access finance for renewable developments.
In the second round of REFIT – REFIT 2, a total of 4,000 MW can be supported. In order to ensure the necessary incentives are in place to encourage the level of investment required to maintain the rate of build of onshore wind necessary to meet our national target for renewable electricity, earlier this year I decided to amend the terms of REFIT 2 to extend the closing date for applications to 31 December 2015, with projects required to be built by the end of December 2017. Support under REFIT 2 cannot exceed 15 years and will not extend beyond the end of December 2032.
The REFIT 3 support for biomass combined heat and power, CHP, technologies, is supporting progress on our renewable heat target. Measures such as the bio-fuel obligation scheme to increase the use of bio-fuels and the electric vehicle grant scheme to incentivise the purchase of new electric vehicles are the mechanisms being used to achieve our target for renewable transport.
Policy interventions through the ReHeat scheme, energy efficiency schemes, building regulations, REFIT 3 and CHP and natural market migration to renewable heating technologies will deliver the majority of the 12% renewable heat target.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In addition, later this year I will publish a national bioenergy strategy which will further outline the role energy from biomass will play in contributing to the achievement of our national targets and, in particular, the target for the heat sector.
With regard to Ireland's potential to produce renewable electricity beyond the level required by the 2020 target, expert advice suggests Ireland has the capability to achieve our national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone. However, it is widely recognised that Ireland has an excellent and abundant renewable energy resource which has the potential to produce amounts of renewable electricity significantly in excess of the amounts required to meet our 2020 target. It is in this context the opportunity to harness this resource for the export market, and realise its potential for investment, job creation and economic growth, has been identified and is being pursued with the UK Government.