Funding delays €220m Wales connector

 

SLOW FUNDRAISING has forced energy development firm Imera to delay construction of a planned €220 million electricity interconnector between Ireland and Wales.

Rory O’Neill, Imera chief executive, acknowledged yesterday the firm would not complete the interconnector by 2010, as had been planned. He added, however, that Imera was still expecting to complete the project “sometime in 2011”.

Imera, which merged with the Norwegian-listed power firm Oceanteam in 2007, said last year that there was “astounding” interest in capacity on the Ireland-Wales interconnector. Mr O’Neill yesterday denied an industry report that funding was no longer available for the project.

He said his firm’s “top priority” was its plans for an interconnector between Britain and France. The firms holds licences to build five interconnectors across Europe.

Mr O’Neill said the firm was engaged in a €30 million fundraising through stockbroking firm Davy, with this representing just one tranche of the firm’s finance requirements. Imera had planned for this portion to be in place by early summer, but it is now unlikely to be finalised before August or September. At the start of this year the company said it wanted to raise €100 million.

Mr O’Neill pointed to a slowing in the credit markets, which he said had delayed the Ireland-Wales interconnector “a little”.

“It’s slower, but the market is picking up,” he said, citing declines in the Irish economy and problems linked to the sterling-euro differential.

Imera’s majority Norwegian shareholder, Oceanteam, is “unable to meet” the Irish firm’s equity requirements, according to Mr O’Neill. He said it was always the firm’s plan to seek a “strategic industrial partner”.

Oceanteam, which specialises in undersea work, is restructuring its balance sheet after posting heavy losses for the first quarter.

The Ireland-Wales project involves the manufacture of 300km of cable, which equates to about 8,000 tonnes. Imera has already spent about €12 million on related infrastructure.

A separate Ireland-Wales interconnector is being built by Eirgrid, the State body.

This month, Imera will apply to become an “offshore transmission owner” in the UK in a competitive process being run by Ofgem, the UK energy regulator. Success would see the firm acquire assets that would transmit offshore wind energy to land.