Chapter 7: Climate Action and Energy

Closeddate_range21 Jul, 2021, 9:00am - 1 Oct, 2021, 5:00pm

Aim:  To combat climate change and its impacts in the County by promoting and supporting policies and objectives which contribute towards a transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient future, and which focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy demands through appropriate and effective climate mitigation and adaptation measures.

7.0          Introduction

This chapter of the Plan sets out the Council’s approach to climate action and energy in the County.  Through a suite of policies and objectives, it aims to ensure the County transitions to a low-carbon and climate resilient future, with a particular emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy demands in line with national targets.  In this regard, the chapter recognises and supports the important role of (inter alia) renewable energy, sustainable transport and travel, energy efficiency and conservation, integrated land-use planning, compact growth, and nature-based solutions such as green infrastructure.

As climate action and energy are cross-cutting themes in the Plan, Table 2 in this chapter cross-references all other chapters to identify their climate change mitigation and adaptation provisions.

7.1          Policy Context

The key legislative and policy context for climate action and energy that informed this chapter of the Plan includes (inter alia):

  • The Paris Agreement 2015.
  • EU Climate and Energy Package 2020.
  • EU Effort Sharing Regulations and Targets.
  • EU Renewable Energy and Efficiency Directives.
  • EU Commission European Green Deal 2019.
  • Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021.
  • Project Ireland 2040 – National Planning Framework (NPF) and National Development Plan (NDP).
  • Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy 2020 (RSES) for the Southern Region.
  • Climate Action Plan 2019; To Tackle Climate Breakdown by Government of Ireland.
  • The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.
  • Carlow Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2019-2024.
  • Carlow County Renewable Energy Strategy  2021 (RES) (Appendix VI).

7.2          Climate Change

Climate change is recognised as a defining issue of our time and is now at the forefront of policy at an international, national, and local level.  Climate refers to the average weather conditions prevailing in an area over a long period of time. Climate change refers to long-term shifts in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s global, regional, and local climates, such as relating to temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind etc.

The climate on earth has changed many times due to natural processes (e.g. earth’s orbit/tilt and variations in solar energy), with events ranging from ice ages to long periods of warmth. However, in terms of this current period of the planet’s history, there are growing concerns that natural fluctuations in climate are being overtaken by impacts from human activities.  This is primarily due to increased greenhouse gas emissions, which includes carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas and peat in factories, the carbon emissions from car exhausts, the methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture, and emissions from land use changes such as urbanisation and deforestation.  These activities have resulted in increased concentrations of heat trapping greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, which far exceed natural ranges. Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions per person are amongst the highest of any country in the world.

Figure 7.1

Figure 7.1: Where are Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from  Source: www.epa.ie

 

Temperature increases have had knock on effects on Ireland’s natural environment, and some tangible indicators of this include:

  • Warmer temperatures (Six of the ten warmest years occurred since 1990);
  • Increase in the frequency and impact of storms;
  • Increase in annual rainfall in the north and west coasts, with decreases or small increases in the south and east.
  • A reduction in the number of frost days and a shortening of the frost season;
  • Increase in the growing season; and,
  • Evidence of greater number of animals on land and in surrounding waters suited to warmer temperatures.

Continued temperature increases (i.e. global warming) could give rise to severe adverse effects on Ireland including, increasing sea levels with coastal regions facing issues of flooding, more erratic weather conditions leading to increased rainfall and storm events as well as water shortages in summer and the potential for increased incidences of flooding, with potential for adverse effects on water quality. 

There is therefore a strong level of awareness and understanding at an international, national and local level of the need to take appropriate climate action through a combination of mitigation and adaptation measures (Refer to Section 7.9).

7.3          International Context

7.3.1      Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was a landmark international agreement to which 192 countries, including Ireland, agreed to limit worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. The protocol was adopted and ratified in 1997 under the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

7.3.2      The Paris Agreement

Building on the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) serves as the formal meeting of the UNFCCC.  At the 21st yearly session of the COP (i.e. COP21) held in Paris, a legally binding international treaty on climate change was agreed on 12th December 2015, known as the Paris Agreement. 

The Paris Agreement came into force on 4th November 2016 and includes commitments from all major emitting countries to keep global temperature rises this century to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while pursuing ways to limit the increase to 1.5°C. The treaty also creates a framework for the transparent monitoring, reporting, efforts and contributions of countrys individual and collective climate goals to lessen global warming.

7.3.3      United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Another landmark agreement in 2015 was the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Adopted by all UN member states, the 2030 Agenda represents a blueprint for sustainable development for the future. At the core of the 2030 Agenda are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which address the environmental, economic, and social challenges that the world needs to tackle by 2030.  SDG 13 refers to climate action and the need to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.  As a member of the UN, Ireland must display commitment to implement the global goals with associated targets and indicators.

Carlow County Council is the current local authority sector Champion for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The purpose of the SDG Champions Programme is firstly to raise public awareness of the SDGs, and secondly to illustrate practical ways in which organisations and individuals can contribute to achieving the SDGs, using Champion organisations' practices as examples.

Figure 7.2

Figure 7.2:  UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015 (SDG Goal 13 Climate Action)

 

7.4          European Context

7.4.1      EU Climate and Energy Package 2020

The EU Climate and Energy Package is a set of laws that were passed to ensure the EU meets its climate and energy targets for 2020.  The package sets out three key targets:

  • 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels);
  • 20% of EU energy from renewables; and,
  • 20% improvement in energy efficiency.

7.4.2      EU Effort Sharing Regulations and Targets

The EU Effort Sharing Regulations 2018 set reductions for 2030 for GHG emission targets compared to 2005 levels. These range across the EU from 0% to 40% reduction in GHG emissions, factoring in a flexibility which depends on GDP per capita.  The Regulations commit Ireland to reducing GHG emissions to 30% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels and includes those sectors that are not covered by the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).  Sectors not covered by the ETS include agriculture, transport (not commercial aviation), residential, non-energy intensive industry, commercial services, and waste. 

7.4.3      EU Emissions Trading System (ETS)

The ETS is the EU’s tool for cutting GHG    emissions from large scale facilities in the power and industry sectors, and in commercial aviation.  The cap seeks to ensure that carbon dioxide becomes a product and, thus, is valued at a price, which is determined by the supply and demand at the (trading) market. The target for Ireland has been set at a 30% reduction in ETS sector emissions on 2005 levels by 2030.

7.4.4      EU Renewable Energy and Efficiency Directives

Under the 2009/28/EC Directive EU member states have taken on binding national targets for their share of renewable energy in their energy consumption by 2020.  The targets vary to reflect country’s different starting points for renewable energy production.  Ireland’s target under this Directive was to source 16% of all energy consumed from renewable sources, and a 10% share of renewable energy in transport consumption.

A revised Renewable Energy Directive in 2018 (2018/2001/EU), sets a target of at least 32% for renewable energy by 2030, at EU-wide level, with a review clause for 2023 to examine the potential for an upward revision of the EU level target.  Separately, a revised Energy Efficiency Directive (2018/2002/EU) also sets a target of at least 32.5% for energy efficiency EU-wide.

7.4.5      Climate and Energy Framework 2030

The EU set further targets through policies as part of the Climate and Energy Framework, which were agreed in 2018.  These targets include a 40% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels and a greater contribution from renewable energy under key policy pillars covering renewable energy, energy efficiency and emissions trading.

7.4.6      EU Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action Regulation

To help the EU reach its 2030 climate and energy targets, this Regulation  sets common rules for planning, reporting and monitoring. The Regulation also ensures that EU planning and reporting are synchronised with the ambition cycles under the Paris Agreement.

The Regulation also requires Member States to develop integrated national energy and climate plans (NECPs) based on a common template. Ireland’s draft NECP was submitted to the European Commission in December 2018.

7.4.7      EU Commission European Green Deal 2019

The Green Deal sets out a roadmap for making the EU’s economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all with an overall target of having no net emissions of GHGs in 2050.

7.4.8      Local Authorities EU Agreements

As signatories of the European Union’s Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy Initiative, local authorities are required to monitor at a County level, energy consumption, CO2 emissions and to report on the progress of relevant action plans. The implementation of such action plans and mitigatory strategies is critical in urban areas, which contribute the largest proportion of overall emissions (70% globally) and contain the majority of services, employment areas and population levels.  Carlow County Council is a signatory of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, www.covenantofmayors.eu

7.5          National Context

7.5.1      Project Ireland 2040 – National Planning Framework (NPF) and National Development Plan (NDP)

Both the NPF and NDP are at the top of the spatial planning hierarchy in Ireland and are the Government’s high-level plan for the future development of the country, with a particular focus on strategic growth and infrastructure. National Strategic Outcome 10 (NSOs) is to facilitate a Transition to a Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Society. The capital investment priorities arising from this strategy represent a major change in Ireland’s delivery of climate-action objectives to achieve sufficient reductions in carbon emissions during the period to 2030.

Investment priorities include:

  • Upgrading of 45,000 homes a year from 2021; 
  • An additional 3,000-4,500 MW of renewable energy;
  • Full rollout of the Renewable Heat Support Scheme; and,
  • Transition to low-emission (including electric) buses for the urban bus fleet; and a target of 500,000 electric cars by 2030.

7.5.2     The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021

The Governments Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 provides a legal framework for significantly reducing Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.  It contains a National Climate Objective which commits the country to “pursue and achieve, but no later than the end of the year 2050” carbon neutral status.  The Bill states that this would enable Ireland to “transition to a climate resilient, biodiversity rich, environmentally sustainable and climate neutral economy”.   This goal is to be achieved through the introduction of carbon budgets, which will place a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted by sectors such as transport and agriculture. 

7.5.3      National Adaptation Framework (NAF) – Planning for a Climate Resilient Ireland 2018

The NAF sets out the national strategy to reduce the vulnerability of the country to the negative effects of climate change and to avail of positive impacts. It outlines a whole of government and society approach to climate adaptation. Under the Framework, a number of Government departments are required to prepare sectoral adaptation plans. 

This NAF and its successors will set out the context to ensure local authorities, regions and key sectors can assess the key risks and vulnerabilities of climate change, implement climate resilience actions and ensure climate adaptation considerations are mainstreamed into all local, regional and national policy making.

7.5.4 Climate Action Plan 2019 – To Tackle Climate Breakdown

The Climate Action Plan (DCCAE) outlines the current challenges across key sectors including electricity, transport, built environment, industry, and agriculture, and outlines a co-ordinated approach towards ambitious decarbonisation targets. The objective of the plan is to enable Ireland to meet its EU targets to reduce its carbon emissions by 30 percent between 2021 and 2030 and lay the foundations for achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  It sets out 180 actions extending to all sectors of the economy. These targets are to be underpinned by governance arrangements including carbon-proofing policies, the establishment of carbon budgets, a strengthened Climate Change Advisory Council and greater accountability.

Figure 7.3

Figure 7.3:  Climate Action Plan – to tackle Climate Breakdown

 

7.5.4.1   Decarbonisation Zones

Under Action 165 of the Climate Action Plan 2019, a requirement has been placed on the Council to identify a Decarbonisation Zone (DZ) in the County, as a ‘living laboratory’ for demonstrating climate innovation and reduction of greenhouse gases. This requires consideration of not just energy, but transport, spatial planning, the natural environment, and community engagement. The criteria for selecting a DZ has been set out by the Department of Housing Local Government and Heritage, and guidance on how to develop a DZ has been issued by the Climate Action Regional Office (CARO).  The Department have defined a DZ as a “spatial area identified by the local authority, in which a range of climate mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity measures and action owners are identified to address local low carbon energy, greenhouse gas emissions and climate needs to contribute to national climate action targets”.  The DZ must include a broad outline of implementable projects with potential outcomes for delivering reductions in carbon emissions.  These outcomes must meet the Government’s targets for carbon emissions reductions, and namely a 7% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030.  To be an effective demonstrator, the DZ must cover either (a) urban areas and agglomerations with a population not less than 5000 persons, or (b) rural areas with an area of not less than 4km².

7.5.5      Investing in the Transition to a Low-Carbon and Climate-Resilient Society 2018-2027 and Climate Action Fund

The 2018 investment strategy outlines the Government’s commitment to achieving a low carbon and climate resilient future by 2050. To achieve this, actions must be undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and resilience entails reducing vulnerability to climate change impacts which are happening now, and what might occur in the future. Project Ireland has committed to an investment of €22 billion towards climate action over the coming decade, with the National Development Plan allocating a further €8.6 billion for investments in sustainable mobility.

The Climate Action Fund was launched in 2018, with €500 million supporting the delivery of projects necessary to achieve the low carbon, climate-resilient transition.

7.5.6 Support Schemes

A number of specific support schemes are in operation to support Ireland’s transition to a low carbon future. These include;

  • The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) supporting renewable electricity projects in Ireland with a primary focus on cost effectiveness.
  • The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) with the goal of increasing the share of renewable sources in the heat and thermal sector.
  • The National Home Retrofit Scheme aimed to  facilitate home upgrades in the delivery of energy efficient upgrades and renewable energy usage.

7.6 Regional Context

7.6.1 Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy 2020 (RSES) – Southern Regional Assembly

The Southern Regional Assembly supports the implementation of the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2019.  The RSES identifies three priority areas for action to address climate change and to bring about a transition to a low carbon economy. The three priority areas include:

Decarbonisation

To develop a Regional Decarbonisation Plan to provide a framework for action on de-carbonisation across all sectors.

Resource Efficiency

To utilise the Earth's limited resources in a sustainable manner while minimising impacts on the environment.

Climate Resilience

Aims to reduce the vulnerability of the environment, society and economy to the current and future risks posed by climate change.

7.6.2 Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs)

Carlow County Council is one of 17 Local Authorities located within the Eastern and Midlands Climate Action Region (CARO). The Eastern and Midland CARO is one of four regional climate action offices set up in 2018 in response to Action 8 of the 2018 National Adaptation Framework (NAF) – Planning for a Climate Resilient Ireland. The objective of these offices is to drive climate action at both regional and local levels.

The composition of the four Climate Action Regions has been determined by the geographical and topographical characteristics, vulnerabilities and shared climate risks experienced across local authority areas.  The CAROs are key to enabling local authorities develop and roll out climate action strategies at a local level, and in a coordinated response to national and regional policy. 

7.7 Local Context

7.7.1      Carlow Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2019-2024

The Carlow Climate Change Adaptation Strategy guides the process of the Council’s climate adaptation planning. This is the first step in increasing knowledge and understanding of the changing climate, growing resilience, and enabling effective responses to the threats posed by climate change. It features a range of actions across key thematic areas, including:

  • Local Adaptation Governance and Business Operations
  • Mobility
  • Community Health and Wellbeing
  • Infrastructure, Built Environment and Landuse Development
  • Clean Energy
  • Economic Development
  • Natural Resources and Cultural Infrastructure
  • Water and Resource Management. 

Collectively, these thematic areas address the Council’s vision of fulfilling a leadership role in learning about and responding to the impacts of climate change, fully engaging with the risks and opportunities of a changing climate and building a resilient future. 

7.7.2 Carlow County Renewable Energy Strategy 2021 (RES)

A Renewable Energy Strategy (RES) for the County has been prepared alongside this Plan and is incorporated as Appendix VI.   The RES includes a comprehensive assessment and spatial evaluation of the County to identify the most suitable locations for renewable energy technologies, taking account of available natural resources, environmental considerations, impacts on local communities and quality of life. 

The RES provides a robust policy position for the consideration of renewable energy in land-use planning and will allow the County to maximise its contribution to achieving EU and national targets through the optimum use of natural resources.

The RES is underpinned by an agreed vision, as follows:

“To encourage and support the transition of Carlow to a sustainable county through community engagement, energy efficiency and the sustainable development of renewable energy, whilst providing environmental and economic benefit at a local and national level, and in accordance with all relevant planning and environmental considerations”.

Climate Action – Overarching Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

CA. P1:  

Promote and support the implementation of European, national, regional, and local objectives for climate change adaptation and mitigation as detailed in the following documents and taking into account all other provisions of the Plan (including those relating to land-use planning, sustainable travel and transport, and flood risk management and drainage);

  • Climate Action Plan 2019  – To Tackle Climate Breakdown;
  • National Adaptation Framework (NAF) – Planning for a Climate Resilient Ireland 2018;
  • Any new National Mitigation Plan adopted during the lifetime of this Development Plan;
  • Relevant provisions of any Sectoral Adaptation Plans prepared to comply with the requirements of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, including those seeking to contribute towards the National Transition Objective, to pursue, and achieve, the transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by the end of the year 2050;
  • Any Regional Decarbonisation Plan prepared on foot of commitments included in RPO 90 of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for the Southern Region;
  • Carlow County Council Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2019-2024; and,
  • Carlow County Renewable Energy Strategy (Appendix VI).
CA. P2: Support the transition of the County to a competitive, low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050, by way of reducing greenhouse gases, increasing renewable energy, and improving energy efficiency.

CA. P3

Co-operate with and support the work of the Eastern and Midlands Climate Action Regional Office (CARO).
CA. P4: Support the National Dialogue on Climate Action in an effort to increase awareness of climate change, behavioural change, and adaptation and mitigation actions, and in doing so provide an ongoing platform for planning climate resilience with a focus on personal responsibility at all levels.
CA. P5: Promote and encourage positive community and / or co-operative led climate action initiatives and projects that seek to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, enhance green infrastructure and encourage awareness on climate change issues.
CA. P6: Encourage innovation and facilitate the development of pilot schemes that support climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

Climate Action – Overarching Objectives

It is an objective of the Council to:

CA. O1: Consider a variation of the County Development Plan within a reasonable period of time, or to include such other mechanism, as may be  appropriate, to ensure the County Development Plan will be consistent with the approach to climate action recommended in the revised Development Plan Guidelines when adopted or any other relevant guidelines. 
CA. O2: Identify and develop a Decarbonisation Zone (DZ) in the County in accordance with Action 165 of the Climate Action Plan 2019 and criteria and guidance issued by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Climate Action Regional Office (CARO).
CA. O3: Implement the Council’s current Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2019-2024, and any subsequent or updated Strategy.
CA. O4: Prepare a Climate Action Plan to include both mitigation and adaptation measures, and which will be updated every five years.
CA. O5: Raise public awareness of issues associated with climate action and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

7.8          Carlow’s Energy Profile

The County’s energy profile has been calculated in the RES using data from the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) and the CSO.  In 2019, Carlow accounted for 0.93% (115 Ktoe1 or 1,370GWh2 of national energy consumption, and per head of population, the County’s average energy consumption is less than the national average.   

Transport is the largest consumer of energy in Carlow and nationally. The transport sector accounts for 35% of Carlow’s total final energy consumption. Despite private car consumption being 1.2% higher than the national average, the percentage of energy consumed by transport in Carlow is lower than the national average due to the fact that energy for aviation and navigation was not considered to be consumed in Carlow. Use of rail transport in Carlow is limited, with the Dublin to Waterford InterCity line passing through Carlow, and also Muine Bheag.

Industry and Commercial/Public Services consume 27% and 13% of energy respectively in Carlow. Nationally, industry and services consume 19% and 14%, this is reflective of a significant industrial base in Carlow.

The residential sector is the third largest consumer of energy in Carlow, making up 24% of the total energy consumption. Average energy consumption by dwelling in Carlow is 6% higher than the national average as dwellings in Carlow are older, are less well insulated, are reliant on oil as a fuel source and have lower BER ratings. This explains the larger percentage of energy consumed by the residential sector in Carlow compared to 23% consumed by the sector nationally.

The agriculture sector in Carlow consumes 2% of energy, similar to the 2% consumed by this sector nationally. This is due to Carlow’s rural landscape and the high proportion of land devoted to agriculture.

Figure 7.4

Figure 7.4:  Carlow and National Energy Consumption 2019 (%) by Sector (Source:  3CEA and SEAI)

 

7.8.1      Carlow’s Energy Consumption by Mode

Figure 7.5 shows that heating accounts for the largest consumption of energy by mode in the county.

Around 42% of energy is used in heating applications, the majority of which is in the residential sector. This is significantly higher than the national average and due to the reliance on oil as a fuel source and lower BER ratings. Around 36% of energy is used in transport applications, which is lower than the national average. This is due to the fact that energy for aviation and navigation was not considered to be consumed in Carlow. Carlow has an urban and rural population with approximately 65 people per kilometre. The rural population of Carlow is therefore highly dependent on private vehicle travel.

Approximately 21% of energy is used in electrical applications in Carlow, which is marginally higher than the national figure. These differences are explained by the industrial and commercial employment in Carlow in comparison to the national average.

Figure 7.5

Figure 7.5:  Carlow Energy Use (%) by Mode 2019
 (Source: 3CEA and SEAI)

Energy Consumption – Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

EC. P1: Promote and support initiatives aimed at reducing the level of energy consumption across all sectors in the County.

7.9 Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

The impacts and risks of climate change can be reduced and managed through mitigation and adaptation actions.

Climate mitigation describes actions to reduce the likelihood of climate change occurring or to reduce the impact if it does occur. This can include reducing the causes of climate change (e.g. emissions of greenhouse gases) as well as reducing future risks associated with climate change. Development Plans can seek to improve sustainable mobility through land use planning, having the potential to seek reductions in existing levels of GHG emissions and limit future increases. Other beneficial effects arising from climate mitigation include contributions towards reductions in energy consumption, increases in alternative energy usage, maintenance / improvement of air quality and reductions /limits in noise emissions.

Climate adaptation is the principle of dealing with the negative effects arising from climate change. The aim is therefore to reduce the vulnerability of our environment, society and economy and increase resilience. Adaptation involves taking steps to adjust human and natural systems in response to existing and anticipated impacts and to take advantage of new opportunities that may arise.

Climate adaptation brings opportunity through green growth, innovation, jobs, and ecosystem enhancement as well as improvements in areas such as water and air quality. One of the key issues for land-use planning in the context of climate adaptation is the consideration of flood risk. Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA) facilitates the appropriate zoning of areas that are at elevated risk of flooding and the integration of flood risk management provisions into Development Plans. (Refer to Chapter 6)

Figure 7.6:  Mitigation and Adaptation Actions (Source: Eastern and Midland Climate Action Regional Office - CARO)

 

7.10 Climate Change Mitigation in Carlow

7.10.1   Renewable Energy

Renewable energy (RE) is that which is derived from natural resources that are not depleted when used and are alternatives to fossil fuels. Where sufficient quantities of renewable resources exist, technologies can be employed for their exploitation, producing electricity, heat, or transport fuel. The processes in which these resources are converted to usable forms of energy do not release harmful pollutants or greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2).  

County Carlow has an abundance of natural resources that can be harnessed in a sustainable manner, without negatively impacting on the environment.  There is potential for a range of renewable energy technologies, including:

  • Wind energy;
  • Solar energy;
  • Bioenergy (biomass, biogas, biofuel);
  • Geothermal energy;
  • Hydropower; and,
  • Waste-to-energy.

The potential for each renewable energy type in Carlow is dependent on the abundance of the natural resource available, along with environmental and infrastructural constraints and facilitators. The scale of developments can range from micro to large-scale, providing energy for a single dwelling, a commercial property, or being exported to the electricity grid for distribution. Renewable energy development decreases reliance on fossil fuels and imports, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving security of supply.

Renewable Energy – Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

RE. P1: Encourage and facilitate the production of energy from renewable sources, such as from wind, solar, bioenergy, hydroelectricity, and geothermal, subject to compliance with proper planning and environmental considerations.

Renewable Energy – Objectives

It is an objective of the Council to:

RE. O1: Seek to achieve a minimum of 130MW of renewable electricity in the County by 2030, by enabling renewable energy developments, and through micro-generation including rooftop solar, wind, hydro-electric and bioenergy combined heat and power (CHP).

7.10.2 Infrastructural Facilitators

The availability of supporting infrastructure can facilitate or constrain renewable energy developments. The type, scale and location of installations will depend on the proximity to the required infrastructure and the available capacity. Key supports include the national electricity grid, gas infrastructure, water supply and wastewater facilities, transport, and energy storage. Where necessary, infrastructure may need to be upgraded or constructed, however, this increases the complexity, cost, and duration of renewable energy projects.

Infrastructural Facilitators – Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

IF. P1: Support the development, reinforcement, renewal, and expansion of key supporting infrastructure to facilitate renewable energy developments, subject to compliance with proper planning and environmental considerations.

7.10.3   Overview of Renewable Energy Types

Renewable energy types with the greatest potential for realisation throughout the County have been addressed in detail in the RES (Appendix VI) and are summarised in the following sections. 

7.10.3.1 Wind Energy

Site suitability is an important factor in determining the suitability of wind farms, having regard to possible adverse impacts associated with, for example, residential amenities, landscape, including views and scenic routes, wildlife, habitats, designated sites, protected structures or bird migration paths, and compatibility with adjoining land uses.  The Council is required to achieve a reasonable balance between responding to overall positive Government policy on renewable energy and enabling the wind energy resources of the County area to be harnessed in a manner that is consistent with proper planning and sustainable development.

Onshore wind energy is the largest contributor to total renewable energy generation in the County, which reflects the national status of wind energy contribution. There is currently an installed capacity of c. 5.8 MW of onshore wind power in the County.  The level of wind energy penetration in the County is relatively low, representing less than 0.1% of the installed national capacity.

The challenges to the development of onshore wind include the local wind speed resource, noise limits, specifications for shadow flicker and spatial requirements relating to setback distances and environmental constraints. The 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines are in the process of being updated, with the publication of the Draft Wind Energy Development Guidelines (DCCAE, December 2019). The draft guidelines require a setback distance from residential properties of four times the turbine tip height, with a minimum requirement of 500 metres.

The County RES includes a calculation of the available wind resource having regard to the Draft Wind Energy Development Guidelines (DCCAE, December 2019) and its specific planning policy requirements.  The analysis, illustrated by the map in Figure 7.7, takes account of:

  • Wind Speed;
  • Environmental, Heritage and Amenity constraints;
  • Available area > 5 km² - taking into account the spatial requirements for large wind farm development;
  • Separation distances from housing – taking into account the setback distance of 500m from all sensitive receptors as per the Draft WEDGs 2019.

Figure 7.7: Wind Energy Opportunities and Constraints

 

The technical mapping exercise undertaken for the County RES also highlights that no significant conflicts arise in relation to the wind strategy designations for neighbouring counties, namely Laois, Kilkenny and Wexford. This ensures a consistency of approach with neighbouring counties, and ultimately a more co-ordinated wind energy strategy across the region.  It is also relevant to note in this regard that the technical mapping exercise for wind opportunities and constraints in the county is a tool which flags areas of having a higher or lower concentration/distance from various sensitive receptors.

The Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) for Carlow included as Appendix VII to this Plan, groups and maps the landscapes of the County into four major Landscape Character Areas, and includes detailed recommendations for their management, protection, and conservation.  The Landscape Character Areas were subject to a more detailed analysis to give recognition to specific landscape features through the further identification of Landscape Types. It is these specific features that often contain more significant and sensitive landscapes that are highly valued for scenery and amenity and include a large number of protected views, prospects and scenic routes.  This includes the Uplands Landscape Type as identified in Figure 6 of the LCA, where the elevated terrain is more visually sensitive and has the highest landscape sensitivity rating of 5, out of a rating scale of 1 to 5.  Therefore, windfarm development in the more elevated Uplands Landscape Type will not normally be permissible (See Figure 7.8). 

Figure 7.8:  Landscape Types

Wind Energy – Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

WE. P1: Have regard to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government’s Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Wind Energy Development (or any update to this document). 
WE. P2: Support the re-powering of existing wind farms when they come to the end of their operational life, and extensions to existing wind farms, subject to compliance with proper planning and environmental considerations.
WE. P3: Support community led wind energy developments or developments with innovative models for community ownership.
WE. P4: Wind farm development will not normally be permissible in the Uplands Landscape Type as shown in Figure 6 of the Carlow County Landscape Character Assessment included as Appendix VII to this Plan. This provision shall not apply to micro energy generation and community energy projects as provided for in Section 7.10.3.5, where deemed appropriate and subject to compliance with proper planning and environmental considerations.

Wind Energy – Objectives

It is an objective of the Council to:

WE. O1: Increase the penetration of wind energy generation in County Carlow at appropriate locations and scale and subject to compliance with proper planning and environmental considerations.

7.10.3.2 Solar Energy

Solar energy technology harnesses the energy radiated from the sun that reaches the earth as visible light. Solar energy can be used to produce electricity, heat or hot water. There are two main categories of technologies that are suitable for installation in Ireland, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic (PV). In 2019 solar PV energy provided 0.07% of Ireland’s electricity generated, producing 21 GWh3.   In Ireland, solar thermal is generally considered to be suitable for smaller scale applications such as domestic hot water or to meet part of the demand in larger buildings.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology exploits solar energy to produce electricity.  Ground-mounted solar arrays, or solar farms, can deploy solar PV technology on a small, medium, or large scale. Solar farms export the generated electricity to the grid and therefore the proximity to grid infrastructure must be considered. Other factors contributing to the suitability of a site include the solar resource, slope of the land, accessibility, and the potential for over shading.

No commercial scale solar projects are in operation within County Carlow. However, there are a number of solar developments permitted with a total export capacity of c. 29.49 MW. 

There are currently no national guidelines in place to guide the location or scale of solar farms. Constraints may arise in relation to landscape impacts, protection of natural heritage or archaeology, or in relation to protecting the high value agricultural land suitable for tillage.

The County RES maps the potential availability of solar resources.  The mapping exercise was carried out applying a risk-based approach to suitability for solar farms. The risk level is defined by adding up the risk levels at certain distances from material assets, sensitive receptors, European Sites and from natural physical attributes (such as groundwater vulnerability, geological heritage sites, soil drainage, landslide, and flooding susceptibility).  The summed risk levels are displayed on a scale ranging from High (maximum risk) to Low (minimum risk). However, the presence of a risk category in and of itself does not support nor preclude solar development; it is a tool which flags areas of having a higher or lower concentration/distance from various sensitive receptors.

A proposed solar development would be subject to detailed siting and environmental considerations, and the outcomes of the planning process.  The risk mapping suggests that the northern part of the County has a higher potential for solar farms.