The Government’s White Paper on energy will be published next week and will address “tension” between energy policy and the “genuine concern” local communities have about wind turbines, according to the Minister for Energy.
Alex White also warned Opposition TDs they could not reduce energy policy to the legitimate concerns that local communities have.
They had to match that to “what we need to do as a country to have a renewable energy policy that meets the challenges of the future”.
Mr White has denied a ministerial rift between himself and Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly over draft wind energy guidelines, published two years ago but still not decided on. A final decision had been expected in 2014.
The guidelines deal with turbine size, their shadow flicker, noise levels and the setback distance from dwellings. Planning applications for wind turbines are currently operating on guidelines from 2006.
Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy had asked if talks between himself and Mr Kelly had broken down.
He said Mr Kelly favoured a distance of between 600m and 1.5km from dwellings but that Mr White was on record in disagreeing with long distances from housing because it would wipe out onshore wind energy in Ireland.
Mr White insisted: “Nothing has broken down between Ministers in relation to it. The departments are continuing to consider what would be the best set of guidelines. But we have guidelines in place at the moment.”
The Minister said there was a good argument to make the guidelines statutory with a very strong case for changing them to deal with the issue of noise and shadow flicker.
However, he said “the issue of having a setback distance that’s unconnected to the issue of noise or shadow flicker is more problematic in my view and I’ve been very honest about that.
“If we put in place a setback distance of the kind some people are advocating, it would wipe out onshore wind in this country as a renewable.”
International best practice
Mr Troy said Fianna Fáil had published its alternative policy and had visited Denmark to consult the experts in a country that is held up for international best practice.
He said Denmark had moved away from onshore to offshore wind energy. His party was committed to meeting the European Union targets but the wind issue was one of huge concern.
“It might not be a big issue in the centre of Dublin but it is in my constituency of Longford-Westmeath,” he said in reference to Mr White’s Dublin South constituency.
Confirming the White Paper would be published next week, Mr White said a central element would be addressing the genuine tension between what needed to be done with renewable energy and the genuine concerns of citizens.
New draft provisions to regulate wind energy were published two years ago, which included noise limits of 40 decibels and a setback distance of 500m.