Good morning ladies and gentlemen I am delighted to welcome you all to Airtricitys new headquarters building here in Sandyford. I would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Eddie OConnor and all of his staff for the kind invitation to open their new premises.
As you are aware the development of our alternative and renewable energy sources as a means of electricity production is an essential part of the Government's overall energy policy.
The promotion of renewable energy technologies is a key priority of this Government.
The Green Paper on Sustainable Energy (1999) established a target to add 500 Megawatts (MWs) of new renewable energy based electricity generating plant to the electricity network by 2005.
Further proposals in the course of the most recent support programme, AER VI, are being implemented to support the construction of a further 140 MWs generally, an additional 50 MWs in an offshore wind category and an additional 28 MWs specific to biomass powered CHP plants. This represents an increase of more than 40% on the original target and is itself evidence of the growing importance this Government places on renewable energy technologies.
As Minister with responsibility for energy matters I can state clearly that we are determined to meet the ambitious target for additional installed generating capacity from renewable sources set out in the Green Paper and in our 2010 target of 13.2% of electricity consumption from renewable sources. However I fully recognise that the target is now stretching us on a number of fronts and I recognise that there are potential constraints to the pace of further development of the renewables sector. It is essential that we work together to meet these goals.
AER VI brings to a close an initial programme to add renewable energy technologies to the electricity network at a level that does not raise serious technical issues. However planning for future programmes at increased penetration levels does raise significant technical issues which must be addressed in order to maintain system security for electricity customers. This plan may in turn require a revision of the current support programme to embrace changes required to allow higher levels of wind energy penetration in particular.
In addition, in May of this year a Renewable Energy Development Group, chaired by my Department, was established.
The Group will advise on future options on policies, targets, programmes and support measures to develop the increased use of renewable energy in the electricity market to 2010 and beyond. I understand from my officials that Airtricity and the renewables industry in general have been most helpful in taking a full and active part in this process.
A major portion of the Groups current work is to resolve the challenges arising from future increased connection of intermittent wind powered generating capacity to the electricity network.
This Groups report ,which is due before the end of this year, will form the basis of my future policy decisions in this area.
Within the sector, Airtricity is now one of the leading renewable energy companies in this country and internationally, both as a generator and supplier of green electricity.
It supplies over thirty five thousand customers and has one hundred and thirty employees working here in Dublin. It only remains for me now to wish the company and staff every success in their new headquarters and in the future. Again I would like to thank all of the Airtricity staff for inviting me here today and showing me around your excellent new facility.