In a move that should improve Ireland’s prospects of achieving its ambitious 2020 renewable electricity target, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment has extended the connection deadlines that apply under the terms and conditions of the REFIT 2 support scheme.
REFIT 2 is a feed-in tariff scheme that was established in 2012 and is intended to support the development of up to 4,000MW of electricity generating capacity, from wind, hydro and biomass landfill gas technologies. Progress under the scheme is incentivised through the imposition of various deadlines, including a deadline for the initial support application (31 December 2015) and deadlines for the connection of each project that is admitted into the scheme. There have been extensions to three important deadlines:
- the construction/energisation deadline has now been extended from 31 December 2017 to 31 December 2019;
- the off-take deadline has been extended from 30 September 2018 to 31 March 2020; and
- the deadline to meet the application conditions in respect of full grant of planning permission and grid connection has been extended from 31 December 2016 to 31 December 2017.
However, projects will not receive support beyond 31 December 2032, which means that less than the standard 15 years’ support will be available to some delayed projects and the Department has stressed that no new applications can be submitted under the REFIT scheme.
The Irish government is targeting the consumption of 40% electricity from renewable sources by 2020, which is estimated to require that 4,000MW of renewable generation stands installed – relative to the 2,500MW that is currently connected. A number of larger wind energy projects are understood to have effectively been put on hold, as various delays had rendered their turbine construction programmes incapable of delivery by 31 December 2017 – to the extent that delivery of Ireland’s 40% target was also threatened. The extension of the connection deadline will relieve this immediate threat and should prolong the current buoyancy in the Irish wind energy sector.