Consultation is a valid issue. The decision we made on commissioning the report, given the significant interest in this and the large number of submissions we knew we would garner, is that it would be better to ask people to make written submissions and ask the consultants in turn to refer to any submissions made. We had a significant take-up on this.
I also thought it was fair to allow the consultants to act in a proper independent way where they did not meet EirGrid or those who might object. I thought this was a proper approach, whereby the consultants examined best practice internationally and examples of similar solutions elsewhere, if they existed. They considered the national sense rather than a specific individual project. This issue will have ramifications, not only with regard to one particular pylon routing but to a number of developments which will occur. At the same time, we asked the consultants to examine specific examples which would shed light on particular projects here. The consultants were not commissioned to meet individual parties. Instead, it was decided to follow the approach of offering them the opportunity to respond to submissions.
The consultation which takes place at the Oireachtas committee is an appropriate form of consultation. One of the great benefits of using the Oireachtas committee as a point of contact is that it involves public representatives, many of whom represent people in the constituencies. It is an indirect but real point of contact where people can ask questions via their representatives. It is also on the record and how we govern its business is organised by the Oireachtas. Consultation in Oireachtas committees works and it is a good form of consultation.
I agree with Senator O'Reilly that the response to increasing electricity prices must be the development of renewables in this country. This is free from any volatility in international gas and oil market prices. It also uses energy more effectively and efficiently. With regard to how we get access to the grid and develop wind farms, it is a concern of mine that we ensure we exceed our targets in terms of the development of renewable wind power supplies. Approximately 1,500 MW of wind power projects have planning permission and a grid connection under the current support scheme, namely, the REFIT scheme. These projects should and will be delivered. In total, approximately 8,000 MW of projects at various stages are seeking planning permission. Nothing is blocking or precluding anyone, including six farmers, from getting together to establish a local wind farm.
It operates within a gated system managed by the regulatory authorities and EirGrid. This clusters developments so our transmission connections are effective and we can build distribution and transmission connections to such wind farms. The scale of resources we will develop by the next decade is 4,000 MW of onshore wind farms. In the interim, we need to examine other technologies, such as wave, tidal, offshore wind, biomass and a range of various supplies so we build up renewable power supply as our main and, ultimately, our 100% green power supply system for the country.
There is nothing to preclude establishing a wind farm and I very much encourage it. It is difficult for smaller consortia, small farmers or others, to make projects deliver quickly. One difficulty is that so many wind power projects are going ahead, it is difficult to access turbines. Major progress has been made in the wind industry in the United States, Germany, Spain and elsewhere and it is difficult for a small operator to get access to turbines. However, this should not preclude us.
I could not agree more that the development of community-led and owned wind farm facilities is progressive. It tends to increase community support for the wind power system. For smaller farmers or people in business, we should consider micro-generation solutions where if even a single turbine can be matched to local demand for electricity, it cuts back on the need for pylons. A power supply system is not necessary as supply is delivered where it is used. We should move towards a distributed generation system. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, has helped in terms of changing the planning requirements so it is easier to do this. My Department, via Sustainable Energy Ireland, introduced a pilot scheme to support and test how to develop micro-generation. We are developing it and I accept from any side of this House or the Dáil the need for us to progress this more quickly.