Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte TD today announced the opening of the new REFIT 2 support programme to entice investment in Irish wind energy projects. He also spoke about Ireland’s economic opportunity to be a wind energy exporter.
The Minister was speaking at the opening of the two-day Irish Wind Energy Association conference today. He said the new renewable energy feed-in-tariff (REFIT) scheme for wind farm projects would help Ireland meet its renewable electricity target of 40pc by 2020.
While Ireland has moved from 5pc renewable energy migration in 2005 to 18pc renewable electricity today, Minister Rabbitte said the country needs to accelerate this take-up.
The aim of the REFIT 2 support programme is to encourage more investment in wind energy.
The new scheme will operate by guaranteeing a minimum floor price for electricity exported to the grid by new renewable generating plants over a 15-year period. The scheme is open to new plants built and operational between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2015 that can fulfil the terms and conditions including planning permission and grid connection, according to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
The REFIT 3 scheme for biomass technologies opened in February.
Today, the Minister also stressed the importance of the development a national electricity grid to carry wind energy at a lower cost and maximum efficiency.
"This requires the ongoing roll out of the Grid 25 programme together with delivery of the essential North South transmission reinforcements and the completion of the East West Interconnector," he said.
The Minister also said that the focus now must be on the delivery of the infrastructure, especially so that Ireland can meet security of supply.
"We need to ensure that new projects can develop into the future. To do this we need to see critical infrastructure built out. The focus now must be firmly on delivery. In particular, the delivery of our vital energy infrastructure projects to underpin our collective security of supply," he said.
He also pointed to how Ireland is aiming to capitalise on the exporting opportunity for offshore and onshore wind to the UK in the first instance, and then to mainland Europe down the line.
"The Government, working together with the UK Government, acknowledges the scale of the renewable energy resources of these islands and through the British Irish Council and other fora, is actively working to develop cross border trade in renewable energy initially between Ireland and the UK but also, in time, to mainland Europe."
The Minister also spoke about developments arising from wider European partnerships such as the North Seas Offshore Grid Initiative whose scope extends to the Irish Sea and the Atlantic.
Offshore wind appears to also be a focus for the Irish Government to capitalise on the Irish Sea.
"These [offshore wind resources] are reasonably close to both coastlines and in relatively shallow waters, so they are suitable for development with existing technologies and are likely to have considerable cost advantages over projects in the North Sea area that are trying to develop further offshore and in significantly deeper waters," he added.