Fine Gael TD for Mayo, Michelle Mulherin, has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, of the extension of the REFIT scheme designed to boost the development of wind farms, biomass, and other renewable energy resources providing green energy to the Irish National Electricity Grid. This will give investors until 2017 to assist in achieving renewable energy targets. The previous deadline had been 2015. REFIT is the primary scheme supporting Ireland’s legally binding energy commitments.
Deputy Mulherin who is chair of the Fine Gael parliamentary party policy committee for communications, energy and natural resources had lobbied for an extension to the REFIT scheme and made many representations to Minister Rabbitte on the matter in recent times.
“This is a welcome relief for many renewable energy projects which are delayed in their development through no fault of their own, but because of the slow roll out of national electricity transmission grid over the years especially to areas with the highest wind speeds and best resources like the west of Ireland and in particular Mayo. There were fears in the industry that the REFIT scheme would close out at the end of 2015 and require these projects to be operational by that date.”
The Deputy added: “The reality is that REFIT guarantees a floor price for renewable electricity generation and without it many projects will not get the finance to get off the ground and we wouldn't meet our 2020 renewables targets and obligations.
“The recent Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the United Kingdom of electricity generated from wind energy is a significant milestone towards harnessing this potential and creating a real economic opportunity together with reducing our carbon emissions. As the cost of fossil fuels continues to rise, wind is an important alternative for domestic energy supply and may represent a significant portion of the export sector in the future.”
Dep Mulherin said: “The west of Ireland is particularly suited as it boasts the highest wind speed in Europe. The development of a renewable energy infrastructure would offer important job creation at a local level at the construction phase. While at operational stage these projects generate income for farmers and landowners, commercial rates for cash starved local authorities, community benefits schemes for local communities and parishes, and of course employment.”
In conclusion she said: “Any planning measures must however be realistic and recognise the increasing need to develop renewable sources of energy to supply homes and industry for the long term. The changes to REFIT 2 will create certainty for those considering investment in the renewable energy sector.”