A grand plan develops

Wind developer Airtricity is urging the Irish government and regulator to adopt a "holistic" approach to renewables development. The company is pushing for geographical clusters of renewable energy development zones with a consistent approach to permitting, environmental policies and backed by grid infrastructure planning.

Airtricity's Mark Ennis says there is no consistency of approach to wind development by the island of Ireland's 32 local county authorities, each with its own requirements for renewable energy developers and its own approach to landscape sensitivity among a raft of other issues. "We have no government policy that pulls the whole thing together. We have instead a number of government departments operating in isolation," he says.

"The only way Ireland is going to meet its targets is with a holistic approach that cuts across all key government departments. One of the ways that could be done is for each of those government departments to sign up to clusters of renewable energy zones where there are agreed and defined requirements on planning and environmental issues," he says. Transmission operator Eirgrid would be able to plan the grid alongside the zones.

Ennis claims that the renewable development zones concept, which Airtricity calls its "20 steps program," has been well received by minister for energy Eamon Ryan and Eirgrid. But it remains for other government departments and the county councils to be persuaded.

"We are a small enough nation to be able to do it. The changes in the last two years for the electricity sector have been huge in terms of support for renewables, increased transparency, and studies into the barriers to renewables," says Ennis.

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