Ireland on the cusp of a €14bn wind-energy revolution

15 Jun 2009

The Irish wind-energy sector has the potential to attract over €14bn worth of investment and support 10,500 new jobs, a major Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) report has found.

According to the report ‘Jobs and Investment in Irish Wind Energy’, which was compiled by Deloitte, the construction and development of wind-energy projects across Ireland, North and South, would involve approximately €14.75bn of investment, €5.1bn of which could be retained in the Irish economy.

Such an investment would also be capable of supporting in excess of 10,500 jobs through direct and indirect investment up to 2020.

“This report is evidence of the huge work that is being carried out to progress the development of Ireland’s wind-energy sector,” said the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD, speaking on Global Wind Energy Day.

“The IWEA’s assessment that wind energy can become a significant employer here in Ireland is absolutely correct. We have the will and the resources to achieve this.

“Already, 12pc of our electricity is derived from renewables, with over 1,000MW of wind connected. With the grid development work being undertaken by EirGrid and the ESB, and the reform of planning regulations and the assistance of CER and local authorities nationwide, we are on course to meet and exceed our targets for this sector,” the Minister said.

However, also outlining today that it intends to develop a roadmap for the sector, IWEA chief executive Dr Michael Walsh warned that there are a number of key areas of concern that need to be addressed, including the likelihood that many projects will not be delivered if developers cannot be given guarantees that the grid will be delivered to their project on time.

The report found that Ireland has set itself a progressive target of delivering 40pc of energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

It is also noted that Northern Ireland is currently preparing to conduct a Strategic Review of Energy policy and it is envisaged this will result in a progressive target for renewable electricity.

The report envisages that wind energy will provide the largest source of renewable energy and estimates that installed wind capacity will need to reach 7,800 MW on the island of Ireland to meet the country’s targets and, in turn, will generate demand for the development of wind projects.

The majority of job opportunities would arise from the construction of major wind projects, with in excess of 7,250 jobs expected in this area, the report stated.

It also provides an insight into the additional or indirect opportunities to generate employment in the sector. The continued development of the generation infrastructure will lead to an increase in demand for support infrastructure such as grid development upgrade works, integration of ICT and energy and electric transport.

“The economic benefits highlighted by the report are welcome news for all stakeholders, but the report has highlighted a number of challenges we need to overcome to maximise this opportunity,” Walsh said.

“While Ireland has established a number of initiatives to stimulate growth in the sector, grid availability, a stable financial framework and a shortage of experience personnel and lack of awareness of opportunities in the sector are stunting its growth.

“All of these issues need to be tackled, by industry and policy-makers, to ensure the sector can continue to flourish in order to meet our targets and assist the Government with its recovery plan.”

The IWEA will now, in the build-up to the roadmap, embark on a major process of consultation with its members and stakeholders to develop necessary steps to maximise the opportunities afforded by the wind-energy sector and feed it into Ireland’s National Action Plan.

“The timely delivery of National Grid upgrades is essential to developing the sector and jobs growth. Wind-farm developers cannot continue to take on the third-party risk that the grid may not be delivered to their project on time and need to be made financially neutral to this outcome,” Walsh continued.

“Planning and energy policy also need to be harmonised. There remain significant issues with regard to expiring planning permissions. It is vital that the policies of bodies such as the Strategic Infrastructure Board, An Bord Pleanála and the local and regional planning authorities are aligned with national energy policy within the context of meeting national targets.”

Commenting on the report, Michael Flynn, partner, Corporate Finance, Deloitte, said: “One of the key themes that emerged from the findings is potential – the potential to find a sustainable solution to our energy needs, the potential to tackle the climate change challenge, the potential to deliver benefits to the consumer and the potential to really drive Ireland’s economy forward and create jobs.

“It’s important that this potential is now fulfilled, and that Ireland emerges as a leader in the wind-energy sector,” Flynn said.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Irish Wind Energy Association chief executive, Dr Michael Walsh, and Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources