UK demand for Irish renewable energy is not as strong as plans to build hundreds of windfarms across Ireland would suggest.
The UK’s Department of Energy said it is not committed to taking Irish renewable energy and there is speculation that its renewable targets will be a core element of negotiations of the UK’s future in the EU.
Three separate billion-euro windfarm schemes have been unveiled in Ireland, the most recent by Bord na Móna, with the aim of feeding the UK.
Bord na Móna’s plan is to supply 2GW of energy – enough power for 1m homes – directly into the UK domestic grid.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy said Britain was still considering this plan. “At this stage we are still looking at the practicalities of the project and no decisions have been made.
“If the British and Irish governments agree to take the project forward there will still be a number of issues that need to be addressed, including planning consents.”
He said the UK does not have any urgent need to bring in Irish renewable power to meet the EU’s stipulated requirement of renewable energy.
“The UK can deliver its legal obligation of 15% renewable energy through domestic action alone, and government remains fully committed to a range of activity in support of that aim,” the spokesman said.
“However, the government recognises that connecting to low-carbon generation outside the UK could provide a range of benefits, including the potential to save money for energy billpayers.”
Two companies – Element Power and Mainstream – are seeking the green light to erect 1,150 giant turbines across counties Offaly, Laois, Kildare, Meath, and Westmeath with the aim of exporting electricity to the UK.
Richard Tol, a former ESRI economist and current professor of economics at the University of Sussex, believes the EU’s renewable energy targets may be the first victim of negotiations between with Britain.
“The UK is rapidly losing its appetite for subsidising wind power,” he said.
“The renewables targets will probably be a key part of the renegotiations between the UK and the EU, unless the renewables directive is ditched by the incoming German government.”
Opposition is growing here to construction of the infrastructure required to efficiently transmit renewable energy to the British market.
Kieran Hartley of the Comeraghs Against Pylons action group said the community was united against their development.
“It’s the biggest ground swell of support for any movement. People don’t believe that this is necessary. It is a white elephant that is being rammed down our throats,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources said a deal is expected in the new year.
“The Irish and UK governments are exploring the opportunity to trade renewable energy. This is being done through the development of an intergovernmental agreement which is due to be concluded in the first quarter of 2014.
“An agreement will be dependent on sufficient benefits accruing to both countries as well as achieving more cost-efficient uses of resources, driving down deployment costs, being sustainable in the long term, and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.”
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