With Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte, TD, and the UK’s energy secretary Edward Davey set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) today to move forward plans to allow Irish wind farms to export electricity to Britain, the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) and NOW Ireland have welcomed the development, arguing that Ireland can become a renewable electricity exporter of scale.
Following more than a year of talks between the two governments, Rabbitte and Davey will be signing the MoU in Dublin this afternoon, in the first move to pave the way for an intergovernmental agreement on the trading of electricity between Ireland and Britain.
Kenneth Matthews, the IWEA’s chief executive, said today’s MoU signing is a first initial step in delivering an energy trade agreement.
"The MoU, followed by an intergovernmental agreement, can give Ireland a framework to become a renewable electricity exporter of scale before 2020," he said.
According to Matthews, there’s the potential to create up to 30,000 jobs in Ireland’s wind-energy sector, along with investments of more than €18bn by 2020, if the required enablers happen following the signing of today’s MoU.
"Overall, the agreement will provide further confidence and assurance to energy companies and potential investors that Ireland is a destination that is open for business in this sector," he said.
Kenneth Matthews, chief executive, IWEA
Matthews described the electricity sector as being on the "cusp" of transformational change, with renewables and wind energy at the heart of this transition.
"Efficient use of existing and new interconnectors to increase our ability to integrate wind energy and to export surplus wind-generated electricity will be central to this transition," he said.
Offshore wind developments
NOW Ireland, the association representing Ireland’s offshore wind-energy industry, has also welcomed today’s MoU signing, arguing that the development of an energy export market could deliver 20,000 jobs for Ireland.
"Ireland has a number of offshore wind projects which are ‘shovel ready’. Today’s announcement gives them the route to market that they needed. We are looking forward to the two governments working together to put in place the mechanisms to make the MoU a workable reality," said a spokesperson for NOW Ireland.
Five offshore wind farms are in the advanced stages of planning around Irish waters. These are Oriel Windfarm, Codling Wind Park, The Dublin Array, Arklow Bank and the Sceirde Wind Farm in Galway.
According to NOW Ireland, the Oriel Windfarm is likely to be the first offshore wind farm that will be up and running.
Oriel is a 330 megawatt offshore wind farm, with its licence area located 22km off the coast of Dundalk, Co Louth. The €900m project is to consist of 55 turbines. Industry insiders estimate the project can be operational by 2016.
"This agreement moves us significantly closer to the creation of an energy market spanning the UK and Ireland. Companies such as Oriel Windfarm will have a market for their offshore wind resource as the UK addresses its climate change and energy security objectives," said Brian Britton, Oriel’s managing director.
He said the next step is to put a trading mechanism in place to allow for energy trading.
International experts and Ireland’s leaders in green finance, technology, energy and innovation will gather at the Green Growth Forum in Dublin on 25 January to examine how Ireland can be a leader in the low-carbon economy.