Deal for 2,300 turbines to supply UK energy by 2020 called off

Ireland walking away from renewable energy, says Green Party leader

The Green Party’s Eamon  Ryan said  there was no interest on the part of the Government “in the climate challenge we face. There is no discussion of how exposed we are to rising fossil fuel prices.” Photograph: PA

The Green Party’s Eamon Ryan said there was no interest on the part of the Government “in the climate challenge we face. There is no discussion of how exposed we are to rising fossil fuel prices.” Photograph: PA

Sun, Apr 13, 2014, 13:43

A negotiated agreement to facilitate green energy exports from the midlands by a 2020 EU timeframe has not been reached, Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has said, meaning the midlands energy export project will not proceed.

The deal had envisaged 2,300 wind turbines being built across the midlands between now and 2020 to supply 5,000 megawatts to the British market.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan responded to the announcement saying Ireland was walking away from renewable energy, while a wind energy lobby group expressed concern at the talks pull-out, saying a deal could have been reached.

The Minister said examination of the renewable energy export project arising from the March London summit, which included Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British prime minister David Cameron, had “failed to conclude an inter-governmental agreement to facilitate green energy export from the midlands within the EU’s 2020 timeframe”.

He said: “I regret that it has not been possible at this time to conclude an agreement as envisaged. However I believe that in the context of an European Internal Market and greater integration, greater trade in energy between Britain and Ireland is inevitable in the post 2020 scenario.”

Mr Ryan said: “Ireland is 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” - a reference to the latest study from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“We need those clean power supplies to stop climate change, but also to create a more stable and efficient economy.

“The American, German and Chinese governments are now in a race to see who can deliver them fastest, but the Irish political system is turning its back on that future, despite the fact that we have some of the best renewable resources in the world.

“Abandoning the deal with the UK government to trade renewable energy is going to cost this country dear. One of the biggest benefits was that it could have lowered the cost of electricity here by allowing us balance our variable power supplies across a wider area. We have also lost the opportunity to give the whole country an economic boost from billions in investment.”

The National Offshore Wind Association of Ireland (NOW Ireland) expressed concern the Government had pulled out of the talks.

It said such a deal could have been reached allowing development of Irish offshore wind resources by 2020. “The decision not to proceed with negotiations could end that opportunity. NOW Ireland will continue to negotiate on behalf of the industry with any party who will seek to deliver on this opportunity for Ireland.

“Ireland has unrivalled wind resources off our coasts. Millions of euro have already been invested by the industry in developing this opportunity. Offshore projects are ‘shovel ready’ and can be developed more quickly than those onshore,” a spokesman said. “Today’s decision will stop that investment coming to fruition and will cost the state many thousands of jobs, in construction, operation and maintenance of these projects.”

Now Ireland said it was ironic in a week which had seen the first state visit from an Irish president to the UK, “that the Irish Government has pulled back from a policy initiative which would have demonstrated the real benefits of partnership in both economies”.

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’s statement said: “Economic analysis conducted on the Irish side clearly indicates that under agreed policy and regulatory conditions, renewable energy trading can deliver significant economic benefits to Ireland and the UK, as well as being attractive to developers.

“However, this will not happen automatically. Renewable energy trading has to be designed to work.”

He stated he was “confirmed in the view that given the economic, policy and regulatory complexities involved, and the key decisions yet to be taken by the UK, delivery by 2020 of a midlands wind export project is not now a realistic proposition”.