Government promises to publish windfarm guidelines before deciding on new applications

The Government has undertaken this week to have a new "policy and planning framework" drawn up before decisions are made on any proposals for wind energy export projects.

The announcement means that Mainstream and Element will not be able to apply for planning permission until the latter end of 2014.

A separate exercise undertaking a technical update of  Ireland’s wind energy development guidelines of 2006 which is focused on the issues of noise and shadow flicker is also in train.  That exercise is being conducted jointly by the Department of Environment and the Department of Energy.  Those guidelines apply to all wind farm planning  applications. 

Today’s announcement, on the other hand, relates specifically to projects of very significant scale which are contemplated  specifically for wind energy export.

The Minister for Energy, Pat Rabbitte, TD said today that he has instructed his officials to develop an overall policy and planning framework which will guide An Bord Pleanála when considering any proposals for wind energy export projects.

Minister Rabbitte said that the framework is to be based on a 'Strategic Environmental Assessment', and that it will be prepared over the coming twelve months.

The assessment would, be said, provide an opportunity for all stakeholders, including local authorities, potential project developers and local communities to be consulted and have an input into the national policy for wind export.

Minister Rabbitte commented “As I have previously said, a clear national planning policy context  for Renewable Energy Export is essential for An Bord Pleanála (ABP) in assessing and determining individual strategic projects.  The framework we will develop will provide an opportunity to integrate relevant EU Directive requirements  -  Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment under the Habitats Directive -  in the context of developing a new national framework”

The Minister added that any renewable energy export strategy would also depend on the conclusion of an Intergovernmental Agreement that would ensure such exports were in the interests of  both Ireland and Britain.

By the end of this year we hope to make an agreement with the British side.  By this time next year we will be finalising a planning framework that will give confidence and certainty to all stakeholders.  

In the autumn of 2014, therefore, project promoters will be able to submit proposals to ABP in the knowledge that there is a clear framework for decisions”.