Planning applications to develop massive wind farms in the Midlands to supply energy to the UK are to be put on hold for over a year while the Government draws up a new policy and planning framework in the area.
At an announcement in Dublin today (Thursday), Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte said he told his officials to develop “an overall policy and planning framework which will guide An Bord Pleanála when considering any proposals for wind energy export projects.”
The Government’s framework, which will be based on a Strategic Environmental Assessment, will be prepared over the coming 12 months and will allow for consultation with local authorities, potential project developers and local communities.
Minister Rabbitte commented: “As I have previously said, a clear national planning policy context for Renewable Energy Export is essential for An Bord Pleanála in assessing and determining individual strategic projects.”
The Minister added that any renewable energy export strategy would also depend on the conclusion of an Intergovernmental Agreement that would ensure such exports were in the interests of both Ireland and Britain.
“By the end of this year we hope to make an agreement with the British side. By this time next year, we will be finalising a planning framework that will give confidence and certainty to all stakeholders.
“In the autumn of 2014, therefore, project promoters will be able to submit proposals to An Bord Pleanála in the knowledge that there is a clear framework for decisions.”
Element Power, one of the companies planning to develop wind farms for the export of energy from the Midlands, welcomed today’s announcement.
“This is very welcome news and means that An Bord Pleanála will have a clear framework to guide it once a planning application is made. It allows for greater communication and co-ordination between planners at local and national level,” said the CEO of Element Power Ireland, Tim Cowhig.
“Furthermore, it means that all stakeholders including local communities, local authorities and wind energy promoters will have an input into how best to harness an abundant and surplus natural resource and develop a new export industry for Ireland in the process.”
Mr Cowhig said people had nothing to fear from wind energy and said his company was committed to providing factual information about the wind energy sector through a series of public information days which have been ongoing in counties Kildare, Laois, Meath, Offaly and Westmeath for the last two months.
“Our project, Greenwire, has the potential to provide significant investment and jobs in Ireland by developing a new clean renewable export industry. We intend to do this sustainably and at zero financial cost to the Irish taxpayer.
“It is imperative that both the Irish and UK Governments conclude an Intergovernmental agreement very soon to allow this planning framework assist Ireland to capitalise on the real and immediate opportunity of exporting wind energy,” he concluded.
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