Energy Minister Alex White has signalled that long- awaited guidelines on windfarms in communities may not be changed or even decided before the general election.
The Labour minister said he did not favour changing the guidelines for setback distances of turbines from homes.
His comments come after a drawn out battle between his officials and those of Environment Minister Alan Kelly about reforming rules for windfarm projects.
While Mr White insists Ireland has obligations to reduce its carbon emissions and must drive ahead with new turbine projects, Mr Kelly is under pressure to ensure communities can keep new windfarms at a distance from their properties.
Speaking to RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Mr White said a paper on energy going to Cabinet this week would spell out what Ireland needed to do to decarbonise the economy.
He said it is a challenge for Ireland and all signatories of the Paris deal. Ireland must double its renewable energy output by 2020 under the EU.
Mr White said guidelines on the setback distances for turbines from homes would not be included in the white paper. Instead, they may be released at a later date.
“If you want to advocate a greater setback distance along the lines that some people are advocating…you will wipe out onshore wind in Ireland,” said Mr White.
Alternative State-owned lands are instead likely to be used for large windfarm projects.
“I will be able to show how we can actually identify lands in Ireland where we can have wind, which is not beside people’s homes, lands in public ownership, [such as] Bord na Mona, Coillte owned,” said Mr White.
He said it was hoped agreement on new setback guidelines may be agreed in the coming weeks. However, amid suggestions the general election could be called early in the New Year, he added: “But if we don’t get new guidelines, we still have the old guidelines which are perfectly good. But I think we should deal with the issue of noise that does affect people, we should deal with the issue of shadow flicker. I’m less convinced that we should have a greater setback distance. I don’t think the evidence backs that.”
Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley said old setback distances existed for smaller turbines, not newer, bigger ones.
He added that renewable energy needed to also focus on other resources, such as biofuels and solar power.
Mr White said these would be addressed when the paper is published on Wednesday. The white paper comes after Ireland signed up to the new global climate deal in Paris. COP21 will move countries towards carbon neutrality and will have profound changes for Ireland’s agriculture, transport and electricity industries.
Many of these will emerge when the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill is published by the outgoing government, which could be early next year.
Under proposed changes, Ireland will commit to carbon neutrality by 2050 and match EU targets.
Ireland and other nations at Cop21 agreed to limit global warming to 1.5% degrees Celsius, leading to full decarbonisation by mid-century.
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