Thursday, 11 December 2014
Wind Energy Generation
7. To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the current status of negotiations between the Irish and British Governments regarding an intergovernmental agreement on the export of wind energy; and his views on whether a significant increase in generating electricity from wind energy here is financially and environmentally viable. [47113/14]
Will the Minister of State tell me where the intergovernmental negotiations relating to the export of offshore wind power now stand? There seems to be a feeling that these negotiations have collapsed and yet one company called Element Power still seems to be proceeding with developments on Codling Bank. Where are the negotiations at the moment?
I thank the Deputy for the question. Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on energy co-operation with the UK Government in January 2013, a joint programme of work was undertaken to consider how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of both Ireland and the UK.
Economic analysis conducted on the Irish side clearly indicates that, under agreed policy and regulatory conditions, renewable energy trading could deliver significant economic benefits to Ireland and the UK, as well as being attractive to developers. However, given the economic, policy and regulatory complexities involved and some key decisions that the UK is not yet in a position to take, delivery by 2020 of renewable energy trading will not be possible.
In the context of a European internal energy market, it would appear that greater trade in energy between Britain and Ireland is likely in the post-2020 scenario. Domestically, onshore wind energy has been the most cost-efficient renewable electricity technology in the Irish market. Detailed analysis by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, and EirGrid found that for 2011, wind generation lowered wholesale prices and offset the costs of the public service obligation levy and other associated costs related to renewable electricity. In addition, the recently published SEAI report on quantifying Ireland's fuel and CO2 emissions savings from renewable electricity in 2012 found that as a result of wind generation, almost 600 kilotonnes of oil equivalent of imported fossil fuels, valued at €180 million, were displaced with a consequent CO2 saving of 1.5 million tonnes valued at €11 million.
Analysis undertaken by the Department, the SEAI, EirGrid and the Commission for Energy Regulation assessed the costs and value of choosing the path towards 40% renewable electricity generation in 2020 compared with a scenario where renewable electricity remained at 2013 levels. This analysis informed a report which the Minister expects to receive and publish shortly.
Separately, the second phase of public consultation on the renewable electricity policy and development framework will commence shortly with the publication of a strategic environmental assessment and appropriate assessment scoping document. The renewable electricity policy and development framework is expected to be completed in 2015.
I thank the Minister of State for that reply. I think everyone in the House is broadly in favour of renewable energy. The Minister of State probably knows that just as in some areas with onshore wind energy, the cost-benefit analysis and the Government invigilation of the proposals for offshore wind energy, particularly on the Kish and Codling Banks, which are just off the coast of the Ceann Comhairle's constituency, and the massive Dublin Array which is to have 145 turbines, most of which are to be 160 m high, was very remiss. The approvals were granted by a previous Minister under the Foreshore Act 1933. Where do we stand on that? I know the previous Minister published the offshore renewable energy development plan about a year ago but where do we stand in respect of the legislation? What is the situation with regard to marine spatial plans? In view of the Minister of State's reply, is it the case that a marine spatial plan could be prepared which will, in effect, lock down the Kish and Codling developments? Is it the case that the Minister of State seems to be saying that the outgoing - hopefully - Tory Government in the UK has abandoned any further major offshore proposals and interconnectors?
I was not involved but I was certainly watching very closely from the sidelines when I was Co-Chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly when the agreement went to a memorandum of understanding between the British and Irish Governments. There was momentum behind the movement towards a bilateral agreement between the UK and Ireland. That did not happen and that conversation is off until 2018 or post-2020.
Between now and then, we must be creative in our ways of doing things. We should not, as an island nation, rely solely on the UK as a potential partner. We should be looking at the likes of France and other creative options. How far advanced are universities in their research in terms of tidal energy and how does that affect getting foreshore licences? We need to look at the entire mix and I am certainly prepared to work with the Deputy on this issue. If we are going to be moving to a period of time where resources will become scarce, we need to be ahead of the posse and work closely with the European Commission on these matters.