Potential €2bn green energy windfall for Ireland

27 Sep 2010

Ireland could net €2bn per annum exporting renewable energy to countries not able to reach their targets, the Irish Wind Energy Association has predicted. EU penalties for failure to deliver on 2020 targets could drive countries with shortfalls Ireland’s way.

The chief executive of the Irish Wind Energy Association has predicted that stiff EU penalties for nations that do not deliver on their 2020 targets could turn into a €2bn energy export opportunity for Ireland.

Speaking ahead of IWEA’s autumn conference in Galway on Thursday, Dr Michael Walsh said that if Ireland can reach enough capacity by 2020, it could benefit enormously by selling renewable energy to countries that need to make up a shortfall themselves to meet the 2020 targets.

“All European countries have a legally binding agreement with the EU to deliver a fixed share of their energy from renewable sources,” Walsh said.

“Fortunately, Ireland can meet our 16pc renewable energy target very economically as we have the resources and know-how to produce over 40pc of our electricity from renewable sources such as wind.

Avoiding more economic own-goals

“However, it will be a major economic own-goal if we don’t go way beyond our own target and export the surplus to countries that do not have the ability to meet their targets,” said Walsh.

“We have the potential, to export up to €2bn worth of wind energy from Ireland annually but only once we have the framework and infrastructure in place. This prospect will be all the more real post-2020 when nations that have not reached EU targets face infringement proceedings.

“Countries that don’t deliver will face significant penalties under infringement proceedings and this will deliver a significant opportunity for Ireland if we have the required infrastructure in place to become a renewable energy exporter by 2020. This is because nations with a renewable energy shortfall will, without doubt, import that energy from those countries with excess renewable energy so that they can avoid any EU penalties.”

European grid opportunity

Walsh, however, said that the EU itself has to bring more clarity to issues around this area, including developing clear rules for trading renewable energy, as well as setting out what level infringement penalties will rise to.

“The EU currently has 27 plans from 27 different nations but has yet to co-ordinate this and must do so soon so that we all know what is required. What we need is a cohesive framework and plan from Europe but in the meantime we must accelerate growth in our own wind energy capacity to take advantage of what will most definitely be a hugely lucrative wind energy export market for our nation.”

Walsh also called for a more integrated policy at EU level for a European grid.

“There is an obligation on Europe to oversee and facilitate the delivery of proper grid infrastructure for the continent to enable a real open market.

This will enable Ireland and other nations with excellent renewable resources to maximise the genuine opportunity to provide a more sustainable energy future,” Walsh said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years