Energy Law Update: 2015 Review

2015 was another busy year for the Irish energy sector, as the industry works toward delivering the government's target of 40% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020. This target is being pursued largely through the construction of wind farms across Ireland. However, the legal and regulatory background to the Irish energy sector continues to evolve, and we now briefly explore three key issues.

Energy White Paper

December 2015 saw the publication, by the Irish Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, of its latest Energy White Paper, entitled "Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future". As is pointed out in the document itself, the White Paper does not include detailed policy proposals, but is instead intended to provide "a framework to guide [energy] policy between now and 2030".

Against that backdrop, the paper's key messages include:

Ireland's energy future will involve the minimisation of the emission of carbon and other greenhouse gases; but reaching this objective will require a "transition". These messages will come as no surprise to any informed observer of recent global and European developments on climate change and energy policy.

What is of more interest are the emphases that emerge from the detail of the White Paper. In particular:

citizens and communities participate greater in the energy sector, including engagement in policy-making and planning, and participation in a "national energy forum". The forum is to include representatives of a range of community, political, economic and environmental groups and is intended to maximise and maintain consensus around broad energy policy decisions. In light of the increasingly vocal activities of Irish energy sector protesters in recent years, the proceedings of the forum will be watched with interest; opportunities for community participation in energy projects, both by way of ownership and other "benefit sharing", will be explored. Any mandatory policy initiatives in this area will clearly be of acute interest to project developers; and Ireland's existing renewable electricity target - 40% supplied from renewable sources by 2020 - remains unchanged. It is anticipated that the next phase of the energy transition will see a shift in emphasis away from onshore wind farms, towards additional renewable energy technologies such as solar, offshore wind and ocean energy. The above are just our selected highlights of a long and comprehensive...

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