An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD and Noel Dempsey TD, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources have launched the Government's Energy White Paper.
The White Paper entitled - Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland - is a practical action-based strategy for achieving a new energy future for Ireland.
Emphasising the importance that the Government attaches to energy policy, an Taoiseach Bertie Ahern stated - "Energy policy is a fundamental feature of our social and economic development. It underpins the social partnership agreement - 'Towards 2016' - and the National Development Plan. It is also critical to the forthcoming review of the National Climate Change Strategy."
Minister Dempsey added - "Energy is central to all our lives. It affects all of us - individually and collectively. It fuels the engine of the economy and it is key for job creation and national competitiveness. It is central to how we protect our environment and how we respond to climate change. For this reason, energy has been high on the Government's agenda for many years now and has been a priority over the past two years.
"With regard to the sustainability agenda, we have set ambitious and achievable targets for renewable energy in the electricity, transport and heating sectors. As a result, by 2020, one third of electricity consumed in this economy will come from renewable sources. In terms of national competitiveness, there is widespread consensus that we must reduce energy costs for consumers and deliver the best possible conditions for competition and customer choice in the Irish energy market.
"To this end, we are introducing structural changes in the electricity sector that will create a more attractive investment climate for existing and new players, deliver increased competition, reduce the cost of electricity and offer greater choice for consumers" - said Dempsey.
Minister Dempsey confirmed the creation of a landbank of power generation sites to facilitate new independent generation, the reduction in ESB's power generation market share and the transfer of the transmission assets to EirGrid, as key steps towards achieving this goal.
The White Paper also confirms the importance of ensuring security of supply. The development of the Single Electricity Market on an all-island basis and the building of new electricity interconnection North/South and East West with the UK will contribute greatly to this objective.
These are the first steps towards Ireland becoming an integral part of a wider North West European energy market and benefiting from enhanced security of supply. It will also mean more competition, more innovation and more choice for consumers.
The Government is also committed to a radical energy efficiency programme that will reduce harmful emissions and contribute to our efforts to combat climate change, while also cutting costs for everyone. "In 2020, Ireland will be a fully sustainable, secure, efficient, affordable and competitive all-island energy market - supporting environmental, economic and social policy objectives" - added the Minister.
The Government wants to position both the ESB and EirGrid as strong and vibrant Semi-Sate bodies now and into the future. "These changes will better position the ESB - both nationally and internationally - to take the opportunities and meet the challenges which they face in the new energy landscape in Europe.
"EirGrid will be strengthened to carry out its strategic mandate to meet the needs of consumers in an independent, fair and transparent manner and to the highest international standards. I am confident that ESB and EirGrid management and staff will rise to the challenges and deliver the benefits of the new structure in the national interest and in the interests of both State bodies" - Minister Dempsey said.
"Everyone will benefit from this new energy future. Working together, we can deliver a sustainable secure and competitive energy future for Ireland" - Dempsey concluded.