Plans to export wind energy from Ireland to the UK are unlikely to go ahead before the end of the decade, the Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has said.
Last year the Irish and British Governments signed a memorandum of understanding which would have seen 2,300 wind turbines being built across the midlands between now and 2020 to supply 5,000 megawatts (MW) of power to the British market.
The controversial proposal would have involved between €6 billion and €7 billion of investment by two companies, Element Power and Mainstream Renewable Power with substantial investment from Bord na Mona.
It was aimed at helping the UK meet its renewable targets of having 40 per cent of its electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020.
Mr Rabbitte has said the deadline is now unrealistic because the British side is not progressing the project in the way that was expected.
He believed his British equivalent, the Energy and Climate Change secretary Ed Davey, was still supportive of the project, but the work had not yet been done.
He said there was now a “pragmatic recognition” that the deadline could now be made by 2020 which is the timetable imposed by the EU.
He believed the intergovernmental agreement which is needed to trade energy will not be completed in time.
“It looks now as if it won’t be possible to conclude that because of policy and regulatory design to be undertaken on the side of the UK,” he said.
Mr Rabbitte said an “enormous” amount of work had been done on the Irish side and a cost-benefit analysis had been completed which showed that it would be of merit to both sides.
“There is a long lead in in delivering a project of this scale. It is an enormous investment and the developers need time and it looks like the pace that which the critical stages of the negotiations are moving are not sufficient to enable this to happen,” he told RTÉ Radio One News at One programme.
However, Mr Rabbitte said the project might still go ahead at a later stage, but not by 2020.
Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) chief executive Kenneth Matthews said the sector had never regarded the UK export deal as a fait accompli.
Instead, it was “additional” to the drive to supply the domestic market with 40 per cent of all electricity from renewables by 2020. IWEA estimates that some 180 projects are coming on stream at present.
“We see this an opportunity delayed rather than an opportunity lost. The export potential is there. These large projects may not be delivered by 2020, but could be delivered by between 2020 and 2025.”
A short statement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in the UK stated that the UK “remains committed to the prospect of trading of renewable energy. The UK and Ireland have been working closely to explore the potential of developing Irish renewable resources to their mutual benefit and continue to do so.”
A note from Davy Stockbrokers suggested that the UK had cooled on the Irish export scheme and were instead looking to developing fracking, North Sea gas and nuclear energy to meet its energy requirements.
Davy also reckons that the postponement of the plans will deprive midlands counties of up to €60 million a year in annual rates.
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