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Results of a wide ranging overhaul of renewables policy in Ireland are imminent. Niall O'Donnchu at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications calls it a "root and branch" review of the government's strategy. The outcome is expected to be a programme of support with clear targets for renewable energy generation.

The review was set in motion a year ago in the wake of the announcement of power purchase contracts under the first Alternative Energy Requirement (AER). The Department of Energy invited submissions from the renewables industry, receiving a total of 40. Work on the review stepped up a gear last autumn as the submissions were considered. Speaking in mid March O'Donnchu said: "The review is nearing completion but there is a good deal of thinking to do yet."

One of the organisations that submitted ideas to the review is the Irish Wind Energy Association. "The IWEA is looking for the government to take a long term policy view for developing the wind energy resource in Ireland to maximise the benefits to the economy," says the IWEA's Paul Dowling. The association wants to see a rolling programme of support for renewables in place of the feast and famine of the current market mechanism. "We are hoping for a move to an annual set of targets for renewables development on a quota system with support for a certain number of developments each year," Dowling explains.

Among other things, the review has looked at new mechanisms for supporting renewables well into the next century. It has focused on three main areas: security of supply, efficient consumption of energy and the production of as much electricity as possible from renewable sources. The objective has been to set targets for electricity generation from renewables and to remove any obstacles such as the lack of proper pricing.

A feeling prevalent in the industry is that the government will take the opportunity to rid its renewables support programme of the "AER" name. This label is felt to carry too many adverse connotations after the first AER competition. "AER-1 went mostly to large overseas developers," explains an industry commentator. "A lot of small Irish developers felt that foreign outfits with the backing of large companies could come in and collect all the contracts. There was a lot of sour grapes because of that." Results of the review are likely to be announced at the end of this month. At the same time the industry expects to learn details of the next round of support for renewable energy.

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