Ties that Bind
23rd August 2012
Renewable electricity: getting the context right to make it work
26th September 2013

Prioritising renewable energy

windVector An overview of Ireland and Northern Ireland’s plans to meet national and European renewable targets and develop a sustainable energy future.

As Europe moves towards a single electricity market by 2014 and a decarbonised economy, the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are implementing a range of policy measures to make the transition to increased renewables.

Both jurisdictions are bound by the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, which requires Ireland to have 16 per cent of all energy from renewables by 2020. Northern Ireland has a target of

15 per cent. Irish energy policy has recently been reviewed by the International Energy Agency, which has recommended increased interconnection as well as enhancing the consultation, planning and consenting process for infrastructural projects. The review precedes a new energy framework for Ireland, 2012-2030, which Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte is expected to publish later this year.

Minister Rabbitte also plans to publish a final offshore renewable energy development plan and a new bioenergy strategy this year.

While the rollout of onshore wind farms has ensured that Ireland’s renewable electricity proportion increased to 17.6 per cent (provisional figure) in 2011, renewable sources for heat and electricity remain low (see next page).

The Irish Government has commenced negotiations with the UK Government on securing an agreement on renewable electricity exports. A memorandum of understanding is expected by the end of 2012. While the Government’s new ‘Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012-2020’, published in May, did not commit to a price support for offshore wind, an electricity exports market is seen as providing new impetus to offshore wind development.

In Northern Ireland, progress is being made towards the 40 per cent renewable electricity target of 2020, with 14 per cent reached for March 2011-March 2012. Energy Minister Arlene Foster plans to finalise an onshore renewable energy development plan this year, which will outline the role of all onshore renewable energy technologies in meeting the 2020 electricity target.

In March, Foster published an Offshore Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan to 2020 which contained actions to encourage offshore wind and marine energy development. In September, the first development rights for a potential 900MW of offshore energy will be offered by The Crown Estate. To meet the 10 per cent renewable heat target, a renewable heat incentive is expected to commence this autumn.

While energy policy in Northern Ireland is a devolved matter, UK energy policy has an impact. The UK Government’s Electricity Market Reform, primarily the introduction of a carbon floor price in April 2013 and a move from renewable obligation certificates (ROCs) to a feed-in-tariff with contracts for difference, will have a impact on the province.

Foster has announced that in 2016-2017 Northern Ireland will follow Great Britain’s introduction of a feed-in-tariff with contracts for difference. The carbon floor price will impact on the Single Electricity Market as no carbon price floor is planned in the Republic. Conventional electricity generation will become more expensive and less viable in Northern Ireland.

Interconnection also forms part of energy policy in both jurisdictions. A second North/South interconnector, to be located in the counties of Tyrone, Armagh, Monaghan, Cavan and Meath, is planned, while a 500MW HVDC interconnector between Deeside, north Wales and Woodland, County Meath, will become commercially operational in September.

Both governments collaborated in a project with the Scottish Government assessing the feasibility of creating an offshore interconnected transmission network and subsea electricity grid off Scotland’s west coast and the Irish Sea-North Channel area.

The Irish-Scottish Links on Energy Study (ISLES) final report concluded that a cross-jurisdictional offshore network is economically viable and competitive under certain regulatory frameworks. It stated that an integrated isles network “may provide the only visible and bankable means to develop some of the offshore renewable resources identified in the ISLES Development Zone”.

The report suggests that 2.8GW of generation capacity and interconnection in the Northern ISLES zone (south-west coast of Scotland, north coasts of Northern Ireland and the Republic) and 3.4GW in the Southern ISLES zone (east coast of Ireland) are ambitious but achievable by 2020. It is out for public consultation until 7 September.

Wartung ohne große Umstände / Maintenance without any great effort Republic of Ireland


• 16 per cent of all energy consumed to be from renewable sources by 2020

• 40 per cent of electricity

• 12 per cent of heat

• 10 per cent of transport

Latest figures:

• 6.5 per cent of gross energy consumption in 2011 (provisional)

• 17.6 per cent of electricity in 2011 (provisional)

• 5.0 per cent of heating in 2011 (provisional)

• 2.6 per cent of transport in 2011 (provisional)

National priorities

Ireland’s energy White Paper, ‘Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland’ (2007-2020) set the following priorities:

• ensuring security of energy supply;

• promoting the sustainability of energy supply and use; and

• enhancing the competitiveness of energy supply.

‘Energy policy framework’ 2012-2030 to be published this year.

Onshore wind

Windfarms: 113

Installed capacity: 1,651.8MW

Offshore wind

Arklow Bank project

Installed capacity: 25MW

Live offers: 486MW


Hydro-electric generators: 15

Installed capacity: 212MW

Micro hydro-electric generators: 4

Installed capacity: 20.8kW


Target: 500MW of installed wave capacity by 2020

A number of wave energy device prototypes are in development in Irish waters but a commercial wave energy device does not exist yet.


Target: 30 per cent biomass co-firing in Ireland’s three state-owned peat generation stations by 2015

2012: 18 per cent at Bord na Móna’s Edenderry power station

ESB does not use co-firing at its two peat generation stations.

Wind-turbine-offshore Northern Ireland


• 15 per cent of all energy consumed to be from renewable sources by 2020

• 40 per cent of electricity

• 10 per cent of heat

• 12 per cent of electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2012

• UK target under the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive of 10 per cent of all energy use in transport to come from renewables by 2020.

Renewable electricity: 14 per cent of gross electricity consumption (March 2011-March 2012)

No figure is available for renewable energy as proportion of total energy demand.

No figure is available for renewable heat as a proportion of total heat. A 2010 DETI study showed it to be 1.7 per cent.

National priorities

The 2010 Strategic Energy Framework identified the following priorities:

• build cost competitiveness;

• ensure security of supply;

• enhance sustainability; and

• develop energy infrastructure.

Onshore wind

Large-scale windfarms: 28

Installed capacity: 455MW


2020 capacity targets: 600MW offshore wind energy

300MW of tidal energy

Development rights will be offered to successful companies for 600MW of wind and 200MW of tidal projects in September.


A cross-departmental bioenergy action plan aims to:

• raise awareness and understanding of the benefits and opportunities of bioenergy;

• create and maintain a supportive and encouraging policy and regulatory framework;

• encourage and support targeted investment; and

• encourage focused research that is relevant to Northern Ireland.