Question to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr Pat Rabbitte, TD)
To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the efforts being made to develop ocean energy and associated technologies; and if he will detail the involvement of third level institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 16th July, 2013.
Ireland has some of the best ocean energy resources in Europe. Much work has been done across Government to identify the potential of this sector. The Strategy for Renewable Energy, the Research Prioritisation Report and ‘Harnessing our Ocean Wealth’, the Government’s integrated Marine Plan for Ireland, all identify Ireland’s potential to become an international leader in research, development and innovation for ocean energy. A range of supports have been deployed since 2009 in support of wave and tidal development at each point in its value chain. The cumulative amount of expenditure by my Department on Ocean Energy in the period 2009 – 2013, including the estimated 2013 allocation, is almost 21 million euro.
The Ocean Energy Development Unit in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has been taking forward the development of the sector through administration of a Prototype Development Fund of grants for industry, aimed at supporting industry led development and deployment of ocean energy devices and systems. SEAI is currently holding a call for expressions of interest and applications for this fund.
The Irish Maritime Energy Research Cluster (IMERC), a partnership between University College Cork, the Cork Institute of Technology and the Irish Naval Service, provides support for device testing and development. In order to ensure world class ocean energy research and development facilities, my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, are co-funding IMERC through the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions. This funding is supporting the upgrading of the Beaufort Laboratory at the IMERC campus at Ringaskiddy in Cork, which will see a re-housing of the wave tank facility and will bring together researchers in the area currently based in the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) and the Coastal and Marine Research Centre (CMRC) and the Sustainable Energy Research Group.
Through the Marine Institute the Galway and Cork ocean energy test sites provide quarter size device testing facilities. Funding from my Department supports equipment and data collection for these sites.
SEAI has been allocated €5 million in funding by my Department to progress development of the grid connected wave test site – known as the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site or AMETS – off County Mayo. In April this year I launched a call for expressions of interest from organisations wishing to use AMETS at the SEAI Energy Show. The call remains open with SEAI, and I understand the first memorandum of understanding has already been signed by the SEAI with an interested company. Provision of a full scale test site to allow pre-commercial deployment of ocean energy devices is critical to capturing the long term economic benefits from the investment we are already making in research and development for ocean energy.
All of these developments are critical to ensure that Ireland provides the world class research and deployment infrastructure necessary to support the future development of the ocean energy sector, and realise the potential it holds for sustainable economic growth and job creation, not least in our coastal communities which are among those areas most in need of economic stimulus. Though ocean energy technology is still at the research and development stage, and the commercial viability of the technology has yet to be proven, a number of studies have identified the potential for the sector to support several thousand jobs in the medium to long term.
It is with the goal of realising the economic potential of this innovative sector, that my Department is currently finalising an Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan. The process began with the carrying out of a Strategic Environmental Assessment. Informed by the findings of the SEA, the OREDP will identify how best to coordinate action across the environmental, energy and economic development policy areas in order to best facilitate the realisation of Ireland’s abundant ocean energy potential.