Monday 29 October 2007

Proposed Planning Exemptions - environment and a strong economy working in tandem

Mr. John Gormley, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has announced details of a 3-month consultation process on proposed exemptions for micro-renewable technologies for industrial, commercial and public buildings and agricultural structures.

"These proposals provide a perfect example of how economic well-being and a strong commitment to our environment can compliment one another. They make further inroads in removing any unnecessary regulatory barriers to the uptake of renewables in all sectors" - said the Minister.

Following on from the introduction of exemptions from planning permission requirements for certain micro-renewable energy technologies in the domestic sector in February 2007, the Department further reviewed existing provisions with a view to facilitating increased usage of renewable energy in the industrial, agricultural and commercial sectors - and in public buildings, including schools and hospitals.

The consultation paper contains proposals for exemptions for wind turbines, combined heat and power (CHP) plants, solar panels and biomass boiler units - subject to certain conditions - across each of the sectors.

The Minister continued - "We face significant challenges to reduce our emissions, maximise renewable energy uptake and ensure security of energy supply. While these challenges are not simple tasks by any means, they also present great opportunities. So, for example, if we maximise the enormous potential of renewable energy sources, we will be directly combating climate change - and, if we ensure security and sustainability of energy supply, we will be fostering and promoting sustainable employment in Ireland.

"The measures I am proposing will have multiple benefits in terms of climate change emissions reductions, potential job creation and the development of a more sustainable and secure energy supply. The exemptions support actions required to meet Ireland's emissions target under the Kyoto Protocol - as detailed in the National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012 and in the Agreed Programme for Government.

"They seek to build on the recognition that the issue of climate change requires a 'whole-of-society' effort across all sectors, by enabling a broader range of energy users to take an active role in reducing their dependency on fossil fuels.

"Furthermore, they will contribute to the achievement of the Energy White Paper targets for increasing the percentage of all electricity consumed on a national basis that comes from renewable sources, to 15% by 2010 and 33% by 2020.

"As we have set out in our National Climate Change Strategy, the achievement of our renewable energy targets for 2010 will result in CO2 emissions savings of 1.47Mt.

"In a more immediate sense, if the introduction of the proposed exemptions prompts even a single industrial operation to source their energy needs from a 5MW CHP, instead of from conventional electricity supply, the emissions saved would amount to 6ktonnes annually. This sends out a strong and very positive signal that the planning system is being increasingly deployed in the fight against climate change."

The Minister concluded by saying - "the proposed exemptions provide an appropriate balance between the needs of business to explore opportunities for meeting their energy requirements from renewable sources and of the public to preserve the amenity of their local area.

"The consultation paper sets out the rationale for these limits and I hope they will receive full and rigorous debate over the coming months. I welcome comments from all quarters by the closing date of 18 January as a means of ensuring that we pitch these exemptions at the appropriate levels."

The proposed exemptions would be introduced by way of amendment to the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, which set out a range of classes of development which are exempt from planning permission requirements.

Similar exemptions for use of micro-renewable energy technologies in the domestic context were introduced in February 2007 (S.I. 83 of 2007), following a public consultation process in late 2006.

Among the key exemptions that are now proposed is the provision or erection of -

* an enclosed CHP plant of up to 500m2 gross floor space for industrial buildings, or 300m2 for public and commercial buildings and agricultural structures
* wind turbines up to a total height of 20m for industrial, public and commercial buildings and agricultural structures or met masts of up to 50m for a temporary period of up to 9 months out of 18
* as with the domestic micro-renewable technologies exemptions, there are no proposals to exempt building-mounted turbines from consideration through the planning process
* solar panels on the whole of a roof in an industrial estate or a total aperture area of up to 50m2 or 50% of total roof area for public and commercial buildings and agricultural structures
* heat pumps of up to 15m2 total area in an industrial estate, or up to 10m2 for public and commercial buildings and agricultural structures
* biomass fuel storage tanks of up to 50,000 litres capacity above ground and up to 100,000 litres below ground for industrial, public and commercial buildings and agricultural structures.

The consultation paper is available from the Department's website - or from Austin O'Dowd/Goretti Reynolds
Planning Section
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Custom House
Dublin 1
Tel: 01 888 2895/2821

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