Investment of about €15 billion and hopes for an estimated 10,000 jobs by 2020 are on hold, following the collapse of an energy export deal between Ireland and the UK.
Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte yesterday announced the time frame for the midlands energy export project “has not been reached” and as a result “the project will not proceed”.
The deal had envisaged 1,000 wind turbines being built across the midlands between now and 2020 to supply 5,000 megawatts of electricity to the British market.
Mr Rabbitte said it involved between €6 billion and €7 billion in investment mainly by two companies, Element Power and Mainstream Renewable Power, with further investment from Bord na Móna.
Separately, the National Offshore Wind (NOW) association said it was “shovel ready” to invest some €7.5 billion over the next seven years pending “a route to market”. That “route” was to have been a sub-sea cable that would connect windfarms directly to Britain’s national grid.
Industry figures expressed dismay at the news, while Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said Ireland was walking away from renewable energy “on the same day the rest of the world is starting to see wind and solar power as the energy supply of the future”.
However Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley welcomed the news of the delay and said it provided a “much needed opportunity for the Government to follow through on three key issues not addressed in its energy for export plans”.
He said a cost-benefit analysis to show how this country would benefit in terms of its own plans to generate electricity from renewable sources had yet to be published. He also said too much emphasis was being placed on “industrial-scale wind farms to the detriment of developing other sources of renewable energy”.
Labour Senator John Whelan also said the windfarms “would have desecrated the Irish landscape and countryside”.
He said the deal “would have cost and lost more jobs than it ever created . . . good riddance to this ridiculous proposal, it was never on and it never stacked up – economically, environmentally or socially”.
Brian Britton, secretary of NOW, said the offshore windfarms had environmental impact assessments in place and were mainly “shovel ready”.
He said NOW would continue to negotiate on behalf of the industry “with any party who will seek to deliver on this opportunity for Ireland”.
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