27 September 2018
Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to be here today to deliver the opening address at this workshop. In the context of national energy policy, and also the EU Clean Energy Package, energy technology issues have a key role to play. Research and evidence based energy policy is vital to meeting the needs of consumers, as well as ensuring that we can achieve our national and international climate and energy goals. The timing of this Workshop is not accidental; it sits well with current progress to move to implementation of new European Strategic Energy Plan initiatives.
The Clean Energy Package makes explicit that energy technology has a key role to play in achieving Europe's energy and climate change targets; indeed, it is the fifth "pillar" of that package. As a consequence, there is a renewed impetus on undertaking the appropriate energy research, development and demonstration activities in order to deliver that ambition.
Energy research in Ireland, as in other EU countries, is aligned to the European energy research strategy, as set out in the Strategic Energy Plan (SET Plan), which determines what is included in the Horizon 2020 programme and other funding initiatives which are being developed. . Last year we celebrated 10 years of the SET Plan, with a special conference in Bratislava. I am very proud of the fact that the very first workshop organised under the auspices of the SET Plan was a joint Irish/UK workshop on the subject of ocean energy. Stathis Peteves from the European Commission, whom you will hear from later today, was our colleague and driving force that day.
Irish researchers in companies and academic institutions have secured in excess of €40 million in energy-related Horizon 2020 Research and Development funding to date. This is a testament to the excellent work in companies and research institutions throughout Ireland, and also to the support provided by SEAI in its role as National Delegate for Energy for Horizon 2020, and Enterprise Ireland in its role as National Contact Point. (You will hear from Philip Cheasty later today.)
This Workshop is about collaboration; leveraging particular strengths to better effect than just "going it alone".
There are some areas where Ireland, working with other countries, is a world leader. Choosing only two:
Grid integration of renewables
Ireland is a world leader in the integration of renewables to the grid. In order to remain there, EirGrid is involved in a number of research projects. That work was facilitated by a study jointly undertaken by my Department and the then Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment in Northern Ireland some years ago – the All Island Grid Study.
The DS3 (Delivering a Secure Sustainable System) programme aims to facilitate the integration of increasing amounts of renewable energy sources, in order to meet Ireland's 2020 renewable electricity targets, whilst ensuring the secure operation of the grid into the future. The DS3 Programme has facilitated levels of wind penetration of up to 60% on the Irish power system, which is a world-first for a system of our size. The ultimate aim is to facilitate levels of wind penetration of up to 75%, which will enable Ireland to meet its renewable energy targets by 2020.
Eirgrid is also leading the Horizon 2020 funded EU-SysFlex project. The aim of the project is to identify issues associated with integrating large amounts of renewable energy, to provide practical assistance to power system operators across Europe and to create a long-term roadmap to facilitate the large-scale integration of renewable energy.
Ocean energy research
90% of the territory of Ireland is in the sea around this island's coasts. It has been estimated that up to 70 kilowatts of energy per metre of wave front is there to be utilised, if we can find ways to do that.
The Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) which was launched in February 2014 sets out Government policy in relation to the sustainable development of Ireland's abundant offshore renewable energy resource.
A range of policies are required to support developers in bringing their devices from prototype to full scale commercial viability. My Department's multi-annual ocean energy development budget was increased by €21.3 million, covering the period 2013 to 2017, which brought the total cumulative funding to over €30 million.
This funding supports the development of a world class suite of test facilities including the wave tanks in Cork and the full scale test facility being developed near Belmullet in Co. Mayo. It also supports the Prototype Development Fund which is operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and which works to support innovation by providing funding and support to offshore renewable energy development projects. 22 projects are currently being supported by this Fund.
(Recent success stories for Irish companies include Seapower, a wave energy company that is continuing the development of its wave energy device following quarter-scale testing in Galway Bay last winter, and GKinetic Energy, a tidal energy company which is returning to Limerick docks to re-test its tidal turbine device.)
Ireland is committed to harnessing our abundant wave, tidal and offshore wind energy resources in an environmentally sustainable manner. Funding is provided by my Department and it supports the development of the test sites in counties Mayo, Galway and Cork and the Integrated Maritime Energy Resource Cluster at Ringaskiddy. The primary rationale for this programme is to develop and maximise the employment and wealth-generating industry activities that could potentially be associated with ocean energy as it evolves into a fully commercially viable sector.
I must acknowledge that, outside of EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and INTERREG, Ireland is not as good as some other countries in undertaking bilateral or multilateral energy research activity. Our structures and processes are not as amenable to such activity as they are in other countries.
My Department and my national energy agency, SEAI, have therefore convened this Workshop to highlight how and where successful collaboration has been achieved, and also, critically, to get some "best practice" advice from elsewhere about how to do this better.
I will be very interested to get feedback from the discussion today. I have specifically asked that the findings of today's Workshop be conveyed to Dermot Byrne, former CEO of EirGrid, who is currently tasked with reviewing and updating Ireland's energy research strategy. (Dermot could not be here today, as he is in Germany on business, but Bob Hanna will meet with him tomorrow to brief him.)
Finally, as I said at the outset, the timing of this Workshop is not accidental. Today, Dr Phil Hemmingway of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland takes over from Bob Hanna as the Irish member of the SET Plan Steering Group. Bob was a founding member of the SET Plan Steering Group over ten years ago. Bob's last meeting in Brussels was two weeks ago; I understand that some kind words were said on that occasion.