Tuesday, 27 April 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
88. Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on proposals on a European supergrid; the implications that this would have for Ireland; the work that his Department has done on this at European level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16649/10]
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Eamon Ryan): The European Union has set ambitious renewable energy targets as part of its overall Climate Change and Energy policies with the objective of achieving 20% of all energy in the EU to be from renewable sources by 2020. As part of this process, each Member State was set an individual target and Ireland’s target was set at 16%. Ireland’s target of 40% of electricity being generated from renewable energy is consistent with our overall energy target. The EU has singled out the offshore renewable energy sector for particular attention, with offshore wind identified for large scale deployment and wave and tidal sources identified as playing some part in delivering on the 2020 targets but playing an increasing role after 2020 in terms of large scale fully commercial deployment.
Ireland has a sea area that is around 10 times the size of its land area. Ireland’s location at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean ensures one of the best wind and wave resources in Europe. There is very significant potential in utilising these resources to generate carbon free renewable electricity initially to provide electricity to the island of Ireland, but also in time to export electricity to the UK and to Continental Europe. It is clear that the level of renewable resources available to us far exceeds the immediate requirements of our own electricity market. As well as delivering on our own national targets there is a real potential to develop an electricity export market, subject to economically viable grid interconnections being developed.
EirGrid is progressing studies looking at the costs and benefits of additional interconnection to the UK and also potentially directly to continental Europe as well as general offshore grid development issues. My Department, together with the Energy Departments in Scotland and Northern Ireland, is currently undertaking an EU INTERREG funded study into an offshore grid connection between the three jurisdictions, which would be designed to facilitate potential offshore renewable projects as opposed to being a traditional interconnector, which would be designed to run in the shortest route from one location to another.
Within the last 12 months, the British Irish Council commenced an energy work programme which is looking at the potential to develop grid interconnections between the Member administrations and potentially between the member administrations and continental Europe. This work is also looking at the additional market facilitation issues necessary to encourage renewable trade between the administrations. This will also help develop a common regional position for grid development in a European context to ensure that grid developments in Irish waters are fully reflected in EU grid planning and funding support.
Ireland is a supportive member of the North Seas offshore wind initiative comprising 9 Member States and Norway. The countries have established a common forum to analyse and address the necessary market and infrastructure developments to facilitate greater offshore connection in the North Sea and Irish Sea areas. The work of the forum, which is working closely with the Commission, will underpin an action plan for agreement by the 10 Energy Ministers concerned before the end of the year. I believe the development of this new integrated grid gives us the potential to realise the value of our natural renewable resources and I am committed to working with my European colleagues to try and make it a reality.
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