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Dáil Question on community involvement in wind energy planning process – 24th October 2013

Ref No: 45035/13 Lottery: 35

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to ensure that communities are fully engaged in the wind energy planning and development process in the context of the current national debate on wind energy; if the proposed national renewable energy export policy and framework which will guide An Bord Pleanála will also include the domestic market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Anthony Lawlor.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 24th October, 2013.

Answered by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte

REPLY

I am aware of the concerns expressed by certain communities regarding wind energy development for export and I have spoken publicly on this matter on a number of occasions. Some of these concerns have been needlessly exacerbated by poor communications and misinformation and I have emphasised the need for developers to engage with local communities in an effective and timely manner. The views of local communities must be at the heart of the transition to renewable energy. Industry can go a long way towards achieving public acceptance by addressing and mitigating human, environmental and landscape impacts and delivering the best possible engineering solutions. It is also important that developers communicate fully and accurately the local as well as the national socio-economic benefits flowing from investment projects. A recent Government policy statement on the matter acknowledges the need for social acceptance and for project developers to examine appropriate means of building community gain considerations into project planning and budgeting.

One of the key requirements for proposals of a significant scale for wind energy export will be the achievement of the necessary planning consents in Ireland. Planning permission for such projects, which will be determined by An Bord Pleanála, must await the putting in place of a clear national planning policy framework and I have asked my Department to prepare such a framework. The policy framework will provide the opportunity to integrate relevant EU Directive requirements (including Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment), trans-boundary dimensions and stakeholder participation within the context of a national framework.

The outcome will be a high level development framework taking its lead from an Inter-Governmental Agreement, EU Directive requirements and relevant national, regional and local planning policy considerations in conjunction with wider policies, objectives and requirements. It will incorporate a vision and strategy coupled with technical parameters and a spatial element.

The development of the framework will be progressed by my Department over the next 12 to 15 months and will provide confidence and certainty for all stakeholders through an open, fair, balanced and consultative process. The initial phase of public consultation has now commenced and all interested parties and members of the public have been formally invited to make written submissions on the export project which will be taken into consideration in preparing the framework. Details can be found on a new dedicated section on my Department’s website, exclusive to the project, and which will be updated as the project progresses.

In addition, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in conjunction with my Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, is undertaking a review of the Wind Energy Guidelines which will address the key issues of noise (including separation distance) and shadow flicker. Draft guidelines will be published for public consultation by end-November 2013 with a view to finalising guidelines by mid–2014. The revised guidelines will apply to all wind farm development in Ireland.

ENDS