Minister Rabbitte stresses wind power is key to Irish energy future
Announces opening of new REFIT support programme encouraging investment in wind energy that will bring Ireland to its target of 40% by 2020.
Addressing the spring conference of the Irish Wind Energy Association in Dublin this morning, Energy Minister, Pat Rabbitte, highlighted the increasing importance of wind power in Ireland’s energy future. In a wider European context Minister Rabbitte noted that the European Commission has publicly identified the pivotal role renewable energy will play in decarbonising the European economy. Its Energy 2050 Roadmap shows the importance of a fundamental shift away from fossil fuels; and Ireland, with its abundant onshore and offshore wind resources, is well placed to feature prominently in the Euro-wide renewable energy sector.
Ireland’s renewable energy evolution has seen the country move from 5% in 2005 to 18% renewable electricity today, but the Minister is seeking to accelerate this progress. Today he announced the opening of the new REFIT 2 support programme which will encourage investment in wind energy that will bring Ireland to its renewable electricity target of 40% by 2020.
In tandem with the development of new wind projects the Minister stressed the importance of a national electricity grid that will be able to carry the wind energy at least 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”.
“While maintaining a viable and effective market, 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. This is in the long term best interests of every citizen of this country”,
Aside from the achievement of our domestic renewable energy target the Minister foresees significant export opportunity for both on and offshore projects of scale. “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.” He also detailed developments arising from wider European partnerships such as the North Seas Offshore Grid Initiative whose scope extends to the Irish Sea and the Atlantic.
He went on to highlight the particular opportunity presented by the Irish sea for offshore wind resources: “These 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.”
The Minister considers that our overarching strategic objective is not just to make renewable energy an increasingly significant component of Ireland’s domestic energy supply by 2020 but also to make it a significant component of our export sector and help our balance of payments. “We have in Ireland a rich and abundant wind and ocean energy potential which I firmly believe can be harvested and exported as a real economic opportunity for this island.”