Land Use and Renewable Energy – IPI conference - rev1

Land use and
renewable energy
Neil Walker
IPI Autumn Conference, October 2013
Four interrelated themes
Complementary uses for land
Plan-led versus developer-led approaches
Social licences to operate
Government leadership
Competing energy-uses for land?
• Dedicated energy crops
• Agricultural production not to be compromised by biofuels
• Hence need to maximise the use of otherwise unproductive land
• Onshore wind-farms
• Wind-farms need not disrupt existing farm activity but it’s
preferable to locate them away from rural populations
• Hence the desirability of exploiting marginal land
• Cut-away peat bogs – a ‘win win’
• thousands of hectares of currently-inaccessible land
with a combined energy and amenity potential
Multiple policy objectives
• Reducing our electricity carbon-intensity
• Meeting EU targets for % renewable energy
• Improving energy security and affordability
• Promoting growth of the Irish green economy
• Conserving heritage and endangered habitats
• Involving communities in decision-making
Mixed quality of wind projects
• An unintended consequence of well-intentioned
policy on renewables?
• DCENR’s renewable energy feed-in tariffs – REFITs - provide an
investment signal to potential developers
• EirGrid’s ‘Gate’ process for Grid connection offers is effectively
first-come first-served
• consequently, negotiations with landowners often preceded EIA
studies, planning applications and engagement with affected
• A substantial proportion of these projects will
probably never get planning approval – whether
for environmental or social reasons
Potential for wind energy
sales to Britain is enormous
Some commentators
are comparing it to
the size of Ireland’s
highly successful
Agri-Food sector…
but if it is seen as developer
led, there is no guarantee of
achieving the full potential
Recent media
“Minister Rabbitte deplores misinformation
and misrepresentation of export project”
Room for a more plan-led approach?
• Greater consistency across local authorities in
application of SEAI’s LARES principles
• Likewise, the soon-to-be-updated DECLG Wind
Energy Planning Guidelines
• More structured community engagement from earliest
stages of a project, with an emphasis on securing a
‘social licence’
• Aligned with findings of the forthcoming Strategic
Environmental Assessment
Show me the money!
• Projects involving transfer of renewable credits to other
Member States may need to demonstrate a visible
country-wide benefit in addition to local benefits
• Perhaps ring-fence some inter-Governmental contract
revenues to help maintain our energy affordability?
But will this be enough to secure a
‘social licence to operate’?
Some environmental NGOs
appear willing to raise
objections simply as a matter of
Facing up to NIMBY-ism?
• The Government recently issued a document that
acknowledges Grid infrastructure to be of strategic
national importance
• Grid projects are generally subject to the SIA Directive,
so planning applications are made directly to An Bord
• Alongside active engagement with communities
• But local protest groups have sprung up all over the
place, and have sometimes been publicly supported by
constituency TDs across different parties
• Including - in one recent case - a Cabinet Minister!
Could the Government
do more to help?
International Energy Agency (2012)
• “Enhance the consultation, planning and consenting process
for critical infrastructure projects with an emphasis on balancing
between the concerns of local communities and economic, social
and energy security benefits”
• “Irish Government needs to enhance public awareness of the
fundamental benefits”
• “A more integrated approach by project developers to early
engagement and consultation will ensure a more balanced public
debate and more timely delivery”
• “Government should also review the effectiveness of the
consultation processes at local level as well as the Strategic
Infrastructure Act in delivering the desired outcomes”
Political leadership