2017 saw a continuation of the main trend in Irish energy infrastructure: namely, strong development, financing and construction activity in onshore wind farms, as Ireland makes its contribution to decarbonisation.
Approximately 310MW of renewable generation was connected to the Irish electricity grid during the year, bringing the total to approximately 4,710MW. This annual connection figure represents a slight decrease in the 350MW that was connected in 2016. However, at more than double the figure achieved in 2015, the sector remains in good health.
North-South Interconnector Project
A positive development for the all-island electricity grid was continued progress of the North-South Interconnector Project, a major electricity transmission line planned for construction across the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. EirGrid plc, the developer of the line in Ireland, published a tender notice for works on the project in September 2017. In November 2017 the Planning Appeals Commission in Northern Ireland issued its recommendation to the Department for Infrastructure in relation to the Northern Irish element of the project. Three judicial review applications were brought during 2017 in relation to the Irish planning decision, with one of these challenges dismissed and another struck out.
Irish energy policy developments
One year ago, our summary of Irish energy policy developments noted that following a bumper 2015, 2016 had been a relatively quiet year for energy policy. By contrast, policy and regulatory activity experienced a sharp uptick in 2017, including:
Ireland's independent energy regulator was renamed the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and received, in April 2017, enhanced statutory powers to better facilitate the enforcement of the licences that it issues in relation to the generation and supply of electricity. Whereas previously the CRU's primary tool of energy licence enforcement had been the binary threat of licence revocation, the new powers now allow the CRU to impose tailored financial penalties on errant licence-holders.
In June the Irish government launched a "preferred draft approach" to its ongoing review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines. The key feature of the approach is the application of a more stringent noise limit, in tandem with a new robust noise monitoring regime.
In July the Irish government published its National Mitigation Plan strategy, including a number of mitigation...