28th November 2016
Check against delivery.
First Minister, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. Good afternoon, I am very pleased for the opportunity to be here to participate in the Galway Wind Park Sustainability Report launch. We are very fortunate to be joined today by our distinguished guest, the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, MSP and Gregor Alexander, CEO of SSE.
In my capacity as Ireland's first Minister for Climate Action and Environment, I have the responsibility for developing the policy to ensure Ireland fulfils its commitments on climate change.
- My department is in the process of compiling Ireland's first Annual Transition Statement under our Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act.
- We are also developing Ireland's first National Mitigation Plan which will form a core part of Ireland's National Climate Dialogue.
- We will soon be publishing an initial consultation on a Clean Air Strategy for Ireland to protect the health of our citizens.
The commitment to the local community during this project is apparent and much of the credit for its success is owed to the cooperation of the local communities. Indeed the concept of community engagement is a key component of the new support scheme for renewable electricity which my Department is in the process of developing.
- The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is envisaged as a pathway through which communities can identify and develop their own locally led renewable energy projects.
- Work is underway to develop the models for community participation and ownership of, renewable projects in Ireland.
To enable the development of community-led renewable energy projects, a number of support options are being considered, for example:
- pre-planning loans and project planning support such as is offered by our Scottish counterparts through the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) scheme.
- Grants, low cost finance and premium tariffs
Ultimately the approach adopted will be appropriately designed to realise renewable energy projects and will be suitably weighted to address the risks between investors and the community.
Ireland and the UK have an interdependent relationship in the energy sector. A key example of this is Scotland providing Ireland and Northern Ireland with the majority of our natural gas. Of particular relevance today is the all-island Single Electricity Market which Galway Wind Park will supply electricity to.
A key challenge facing us in the energy sector is, of course, Brexit. As Minister with responsibility for energy, key priorities for me are ensuring the continued trade in secure supplies of energy between the UK and Ireland and the continued operation and development of the Single Electricity Market.
In conclusion, it is essential that we all continue to fully engage in measures to control our greenhouse gas emissions. Action on climate change is both a duty and an opportunity that everyone needs to play their part in. Galway Wind Park is a perfect example of bringing people along with community benefit and engagement.