The support package for the next round will be IR£7.5 million in backing for: competitions for an additional 100 MW of installed capacity using renewable sources; a grant scheme for the development of small scale renewables projects; grant support for a pilot wave energy project; and a special initiative for innovative renewable energy projects.
Significantly the package also contains a provision to allow third party access to the electricity network "to allow sales of green electricity directly to electricity consumers," said Stagg, "and the setting of a target for electricity from renewables up to the year 2010." He gave no indication of the size of this target at the conference. "Suffice to say that the strategy brings renewables centre stage as a component of Irish energy policy," said Stagg, stressing that competitive prices were of paramount importance.
The new round of competition comes just over a year after announcement of projects chosen in the first round of the Alternative Energy Requirement (AER) for new hydro, landfill gas, wind and combined heat and power projects. In this first round, ten projects for 70 MW of wind power won contracts, though so far not one has been built (Windpower Monthly, April 1996). The initial aim of the first round was for construction of just 75 MW of new renewable capacity, but the number of projects bid in at near commercial prices meant that far more were selected. Under the AER, payments for renewables range from a peak rate of IEP 0.065/kWh to IEP 0.04/kWh for off peak supplies.
In a veiled warning to the international wind turbine industry, Stagg indicated at the Irish Wind Energy Association conference that large scale imports of technology with no Irish content would not necessarily be tolerated. "We must also, of course, adopt a broad view and look beyond purely energy concerns to issues such as industrial competitiveness, employment and local development and seek to identify ways in which the harnessing of renewables can support other areas of national policy," said Stagg.
He said he appreciated and accepted that the wind business has a role beyond electricity generation, referring to its "broader potential in turbine manufacturing, skills transfer, consultancy and other related business opportunities, local development and wealth creation."
Stagg also gave brief details of a government review of renewable strategy, expected to report soon. "Among other issues the review has considered the priority technologies, grid connection issues, unit price, the future of Thermie funded projects, the planning process, the need for longer term targets and the broader socio-economic dimension to renewables development," he said.