Minister seeks solutions

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An advisory group made up of key players in Irish renewables business has been set up by the minister in charge of energy, Dermot Ahern. It is to report back on the issues that must be tackled if the country's renewables market is to flourish.

The Renewable Energy Development Group includes representatives from the minister's own Department for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the Commission for Energy Regulation, Eirgrid, government agency Sustainable Energy Ireland, Northern Ireland's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, and outside experts. It is expected to invite other members on board -- including representatives from the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA).

Heading the agenda is Ireland's next market support mechanism for renewables. The group will also be dealing with the introduction of net metering, research and development, plans for a grid upgrade program, the backlog of applications from renewables projects waiting to be connected to the grid, and the moratorium on wind farm connections. The group is to produce monthly progress reports and is to fold by the end of the year.

"I'm not looking for glossy reports and lengthy deliberations," says Ahern. "I know the complexities. I want advice from those involved in surmounting them. With this in mind I have decided on a structure which I hope will focus minds on delivering solutions." One of his core goals for energy is to bring renewables into the mainstream. "That means the wider energy sector, industry, consumers and policy makers understanding that renewables are here to stay; that our EU obligations will be met. And that this government demands an increase in renewable penetration."

To underline his commitment to the initiative, Ahern attended the first meeting on May 6. Maureen De Pietro from IWEA welcomes the move. "It is what we were asking for; for all departments to get their heads together to tackle the problems facing renewables." She believes the government is serious about expanding the renewables sector.

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