The Irish Farmers Association and the Wind Energy Association of Ireland have expressed predictably varying views on the Energy White Paper, which was published on Wednesday 16 December.
The Energy White paper, launched by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White, set out the vision for a low carbon energy future.
Commenting on the publication of the Energy White Paper, which sets out the direction of Ireland’s energy use until 2050, Kenneth Matthews, CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association (WEA) said the body welcomes the report, as it “recognises wind energy as the most cost-effective renewable option for Ireland.”
It adds that wind farms will continue to play a leading role among Irish renewables in “bringing down energy costs, cutting emissions, attracting billions in low carbon investment into Ireland, and securing our energy security, moving us away from our 85% dependency on foreign energy imports in favour of Irish home-grown power.”
Matthews added that wind energy has delivered “considerable benefits to local communities across Ireland and it will help Ireland to meet its international commitments stemming from the COP21 negotiations in Paris.”
James Murphy, Renewables Project Team Chairman of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), also welcomed the report, describing it as “an important framework, which for the first time recognises the important role of communities in energy production.”
However, he was less enthusiastic on the subject of wind farms and expressed disappointment at the failure of the White Paper to address the issue of set-back distances of wind turbines from sensitive properties such as family homes, farms and schools.
“This issue is a real concern to many members living in the vicinity of proposed projects and they deserve clarity and certainty,” he said. “The obligation must be on wind development companies to operate in harmony with rural communities and Government must assist this by progressing the publication of legally binding set back distances as a matter of urgency.”
Murphy added that renewables will assist Ireland to deliver EU energy and climate obligations, but cautioned that this must not take place at the expense of communities.
Therefore, he welcomed the commitment in the White Paper that there will be opportunities for communities to work with Government to develop renewable energy projects.
Murphy said “this commitment must now be followed up with decisive actions, including a tariff premium and grid exemption for community based projects. In addition, Government must come forward with a robust renewable heat incentive scheme, which if properly structured will benefit farmers, rural communities and the overall economy.”
On biomass production generally, Murphy said the global move to create a biomass economy means that the current policy is flawed.
“The position is no longer acceptable whereby tax payers are subsidising imported biomass to meet Ireland’s renewable targets, at a time when thousands of farmers across the country have the land and ability to supply this material. The Government must ensure future biomass supports are exclusively for indigenously produced biomass.”
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