Noel Dempsey T.D., the Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources, has published a new Government strategy entitled the 'Bioenergy Action Plan for Ireland'.
The action plan - produced by the Ministerial Task Force on Bioenergy, comprising seven Government Departments and Ministers - is a comprehensive strategy to increase the deployment of renewable energy across three key sectors - transport, heat and electricity.
Among the commitments in the Government Action Plan are -
* By 2020, a third of all electricity consumed in Ireland will come from renewable sources (i.e. wind, tidal, solar, etc);
* All peat electricity power stations will be co-fired by 30% renewable material by 2015 (this will lead to CO2 savings of 900,000 tonnes per year);
* 12% of all residential and commercial heating will be powered by renewable sources (wood chip, solar, etc) by 2020 (5% by 2010);
* Within 12 months, building regulations will be reviewed to raise the energy efficiency of all new homes by at least 40%;
* By 2009, a new biofuel obligation will mean that all petrol and diesel will have, on average, a 5.75% biofuel mix (this will lead to CO2 savings of 770,000 tonnes per year);
* All new buses in the public fleet will use a biofuel blend of at least 30%;
* New energy-efficient designs for schools (2.3 times more energy-efficient than international normal standards) will be piloted in 40 new schools, with a view to a national roll-out thereafter;
* A new programme of efficiency measures - including mandatory use of energy-efficient lighting in hospitals, offices and other public buildings - will be introduced with immediate effect.
Speaking at the launch of the Action Plan, Minister Dempsey stressed the significance of the Government decision to tackle renewable energy policy in an integrated and holistic manner - "We recognised, early, that the transport, heat and electricity sectors are almost equal in the amount of energy they use and the CO2 emissions they produce. In this plan, we set out clear, cross-department strategies to deal with each of these sectors. The end result will be CO2 savings in the region of 2 million tonnes a year. This is extremely good news for the environment."
By setting ambitious targets, the Bioenergy Action Plan will lead to the development of a significant indigenous renewable energy sector. Bioenergy can provide a continuous and predictable clean energy source that has enormous potential for reducing Ireland's dependence on fossil fuel imports. It will provide benefits to rural economies by creating new jobs in new industries and it has the potential to open massive opportunities for Irish agriculture and forestry, with the production of fuel producing crops.
"Since the launch, last year, of the Greener Homes scheme and the Power of One campaign, I have been struck by the strong public appetite for increased energy efficiency. For our part in Government, we will continue our drive to empower the entire community to play a role in the development of a more sustainable energy economy in Ireland" - the Minister continued.
"The Bioenergy Action Plan, launched today, is only one element of a comprehensive renewable energy policy and a broader national energy policy. This policy will be published shortly in the forthcoming White Paper on Energy. Together with the publication of the revised National Climate Change Strategy, this Government will ensure that Ireland achieves its goal of a sustainable energy future" - concluded Minister Dempsey.