dublin castle, 26th january 2017
good morning ladies and gentlemen, executive director, commissioner and distinguished guests. i must commence by offering the apologies of minister naughten. he had of course fully expected to be here today, speaking to you directly, but unfortunately his recent accident has led to him not being able to be here this morning.
nonetheless i am delighted to be present and would like to thank eirgrid for extending us their invitation to address such an influential gathering. and i commend eirgrid for its organisation of what appears to be a very topical and very well-attended conference, complete with a highly impressive presenter list.
this session is dedicated to "planning for our energy future." i hope to provide a brief overview of what underpins national energy policy planning, as well as an outline view of ireland's thinking in relation to important developments arising within the wider eu energy context. i will also provide an overview of the analysis and planning being carried out in relation to brexit.
in the always moving, ever-changing energy arena, planning is an exercise that is an ongoing thing. it seems that at every turn we are forced to contemplate, to virtually inhabit, the future – if it's not the "2020 vision" then it's the "2050 roadmap"; if it's not "obligatory national targets" then it's "emissions reductions requirements"; and what about those two words that are ever present in the here and now, but in reality always seemingly far-removed - climate change?
in very simple terms, energy is one sector in particular in which we are essentially always in planning mode. planning for our energy future.
national policy backdrop – energy white paper & programme for government
the starting point for national energy planning is the energy white paper. published little more than a year ago "ireland's transition to a low carbon energy future 2015-2030" sets out a policy framework to guide energy policy up to 2030. it listed more than 90 actions that will be required to be taken over the years ahead to steer that transition. many of those are already well underway. set alongside the december 2015 climate action and low carbon development act and bolstered by the 2016 programme for government which called for "radical and ambitious thinking" in our efforts to combat climate change, it is clear that ireland has a very solid base in terms of planning for our energy - and climate - future.
it is worth noting that the energy white paper was the first post-cop21 expression of the practical work necessary – in the energy sector – to meet the ambitions set out in the historic agreement that came into effect last november and has now been ratified by over 125 countries, including ireland.
the eu's "clean energy for all" package
internationally ireland's commitments under the paris agreement will be delivered via the european union's framework for climate and energy. this includes emission reduction, renewable energy and energy efficiency targets.
under the eu's energy union strategy, the 'clean energy for all europeans' package was published on 30th november last.
however, i should highlight the critical importance that this package will have on wider energy policy in the coming years.
the package contains eight legislative proposals and almost one hundred associated documents amounting to thousands of pages of proposals and commentary. the key areas covered include energy efficiency, market design, renewable energy and governance. the european council has set a very ambitious target for these proposals to be fully agreed by 2018.
in this regard, i welcome the european commission's active and open engagement on the proposals. earlier this month, a high-level delegation from the eu's directorate general energy visited dublin to discuss key aspects of the package and allowed ireland to provide an initial outline of our national position on it.
i would like to assure commissioner hogan that ireland remains consistent in our long-standing stance of open engagement with the progressive proposals of the commission. we remain fully committed to the principles of the energy union.
while the details of the package will require careful consideration, let me provide some initial thoughts on the main contents of the package.
the energy efficiency proposals contain areas of keen interest to ireland including the extension of the energy efficiency obligation scheme. this is something that has significantly contributed to ireland's energy efficiency progress and is something we would look to review in a positive manner.
the market regulation package includes proposals in relation to capacity remuneration mechanisms which are a welcome and necessary inclusion. i have no doubt that the details of such measures will be the subject of much discussion.
the renewable energy package includes the extension of the national 2020 targets to 2030. the level of growth in the irish economy combined with delivery of energy efficiency savings, will determine the extent of measures and investment required to achieve the 2030 target. we therefore should not underestimate the challenge of meeting the 2030 eu-level binding target of at least 27% of renewable energy
the proposal on governance includes the need for all member states to develop national energy and climate plans covering the period 2021 to 2030. this will combine much of the planning and reporting requirements currently in place for 2020 and the commission have set out a particularly ambitious timetable in this regard. the combination of the national energy efficiency action plan and national renewable energy action plan into the new plan is a welcome development. the need for ireland to develop a national energy and climate plan makes today's theme of planning our energy future even more relevant.
i would like to announce that my department plans to run a public consultation on the package, to be opened next month. this canvass of views will assist us further in the development of our national positions on the proposals.
when we talk about "planning for our energy future" and particularly when we have an all-island gathering like this one, it's a really useful opportunity and probably necessary to mention brexit.
the government is alert to the multi-faceted challenge that brexit will bring to us. while we must all bear in mind that the future relationship between the uk and eu has not yet been determined, or indeed the formal exit process activated, planning has been underway for some time and energy has been identified as a key sector for ireland.
at the highest level, the taoiseach has convened a cabinet committee on brexit and an all-island civil dialogue, with the next plenary of the dialogue scheduled to take place next month.
the cabinet committee is supplemented by an interdepartmental working group and there are a range of specific working groups feeding that. the largest of these is an economy and trade group which in turn is supplemented by a range of sectoral groups, one of which is energy. this energy sectoral group is chaired by officials in my own department. already it has had fruitful discussions and information-gathering sessions that have extended to agencies and entities under the department's remit that have energy interests, and further afield.
in that regard, we have just this week issued invitations to a wide circulation of both civic society, business and the energy sector – including some of you here – to attend the first meeting of the brexit civic dialogue on energy, to be held on february 6th next in boyle, co. roscommon.
an extensive programme of engagement with all other eu governments and the eu institutions, including the commission's brexit task force, is well under way. this engagement is being intensified in 2017.
minister naughten has himself already held bilateral discussions with the ministerial representatives of a range of countries and commissioner canete on the subject of brexit and the unique challenges faced by ireland. the taoiseach and ministers will continue to meet and engage with their eu counterparts over the coming weeks to emphasise ireland's concerns and to ensure that they are fully reflected in the eu position once negotiations commence.
this activity is reinforced by extensive engagement at diplomatic and official level. the government is acutely aware of the potential risks and challenges for the irish economy and will remain fully engaged on this aspect as the negotiations proceed. an important part of our preparations for the brexit negotiations is ensuring that our particular concerns are heard and understood across europe, and engagement with our eu partners and with the eu institutions is therefore critical.
in the energy sector, it is critical that secure trade in energy continues between the uk and eu member states. the continued operation and development of the single electricity market is also a key priority for the minister and the government.
we are also busy cultivating existing relationships and structures that lie beyond the eu. in that regard i am pleased to welcome dr. fatih birol of the international energy agency here today. as an energy leader in the global arena, dr. birol will be aware of ireland's long-standing positive relationship with the iea. ireland is a founding member of this leading organisation and ireland is represented – and active - on a wide variety of its working groups, including its governing board. here in ireland, dr. birol, we share the goals of the iea you lead – as you continue to work tirelessly to ensure secure, reliable, affordable and clean energy for all and as you seek further global energy cooperation in the energy arena. later this year the iea will, in paris, host the agency's biennial energy ministerial. this will be an important occasion and will, i expect, seek to build on the dr birol's vision endorsed at the last ministerial of strengthening the agency's role as an authoritative voice on global energy policy.
a key part of the iea's work is carrying out peer-reviews of member countries' energy policies. ireland's next in-depth review is due to take place one year from now. i look forward to welcoming the iea team to those discussions.
single electricity market
of all sectors in our economy it could reasonably be argued that electricity is one of the most joined-up between the two jurisdictions on our island. as i mentioned, minister naughten has publicly identified the continued operation of the all-island single electricity market as a key priority in brexit negotiations, indeed the single energy market has also been identified in prime minster may's letter of last to the offices of first and deputy first minster. in it she "recognised the unique issues raised by the single electricity market" and noted that "resolving these will be a priority for government." i think everybody in this room will be aware of the unique achievements of the single electricity market. by combining what were two separate jurisdictional electricity markets, the market became the first of its kind in europe when it went live in 2007. the market has been highly successful in achieving its primary goals – those of providing the least cost source of electricity generation to meet customer demand at any one time across the whole island of ireland, while also maximising long-term sustainability and reliability.
the market is now in the process of being redesigned as the integrated single electricity market (or i-sem) so as to fully comply with eu regulations and for the realisation of further efficiencies. that process sees further strong cooperation between governments and organisations in ireland, northern ireland and the u.k.
i want to reiterate today the firm commitment of the irish government to the ongoing, successful development of the integrated single electricity market.
the north south interconnector
the single electricity market supports growing economies through efficient electricity market operations. ireland continues to experience significant economic growth. it is therefore vital that the electricity system as a whole is efficient and supports such growth. in particular, it is critical that we have adequate grid infrastructure, fit for purpose, fit for growing economies.
a critical proposed support for the market is the second north-south interconnector. authorities in both jurisdictions are clear in our support for this vital element of electricity grid infrastructure.
as set out in the energy white paper and in eu energy policy, there is a need for appropriate energy infrastructure, including energy networks and interconnection with other countries' energy systems.
a key barrier to the efficient operation of the single electricity market has been the limited interconnection between the electricity systems of ireland and northern ireland. with only one interconnector of scale between the two electricity systems, they cannot operate as a single system. this limits the benefits that can be derived from the single electricity market.
as the commissioner said, the decision by an bord pleanala on 21st december last to approve the development of the interconnector that lies within ireland's jurisdiction was a hugely significant one for the single electricity market. the inquiry in northern ireland resumes on 22nd february. i am sure that most here present will be watching with interest the development of this planning process over the coming months.
as well as the north south interconnector ireland must actively explore other interconnection possibilities with britain and further afield. in that regard there are two existing proposals for interconnection – the greenlink interconnector to wales and the celtic interconnector to france. my department plans to commence a process to commission research into interconnection next month, the outputs of which will further inform policy in this area.
in conclusion, planning for our energy future involves a lot of moving parts and a lot of conflicting objectives and arguments. we can all only do the best we can, but the exercises we undertake in our attempts to reach decisions, and those decisions we do reach, are of fundamental importance to our children and grandchildren. in this room all of you play your part in the energy transition in one shape or form. i wish you well in your endeavours.
i want to once again thank eirgrid for the invitation to attend and present at this forum and i thank you all for your attention. go raibh mile maith agaimh, thank you.