Plans to import wind power from Ireland are on David Cameron’s agenda today amid widespread reports the scheme, worth up to 8GW, has been shelved.
The prime minister is due to discuss the matter with his opposite number in Ireland, Enda Kenny, following a breakdown in talks between their respective energy ministers.
Two companies, Mainstream Renewable Power and Element Power, are leading efforts to erect 1,000 turbines across central reland to connect to the British grid. The power generated would contribute to meeting the UK’s 2020 renewable energy target.
However, there are legal and regulatory barriers to be thrashed out and Irish energy minister Pat Rabbitte said last week the deal was unlikely to go ahead in time.
“At this stage I am doubtful as to whether an inter-governmental agreement can be concluded with the British government,” he told the Irish Independent. “I met with [UK energy secretary] Ed Davey in Brussels on Tuesday and, following that meeting, I am confirmed in my view.
“In terms of the timelines dictated both by European policy and the exigencies imposed on developers – in other words between now and 2020 – I can’t now see an export project as envisaged.”
A negotiator cited in the Irish Times blamed UK coalition tensions for undermining the project. The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on renewable energy trading in January 2013, but the negotiator accused the Conservatives of being more interested in North Sea oil and fracking.
“The British government policy on energy is in an absolute state of dysfunction,” the negotiator said. “There is a battle between the two parties [Liberal Democrats and Conservatives].”
Even if the issues are not resolved in time for 2020, proponents said the €6-€7 billion (£5-£6 billion) scheme could go ahead.
Kenneth Matthews, chief executive of the Irish Wind Energy Association, said it was “an opportunity delayed rather than an opportunity lost”.
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