UK to plug into green Irish energy
A deal to enable exports of renewable energy from Ireland to the UK could be in place within six months as the two states start formal discussions on the issue next week
TALKS ON A deal that could pave the way for green electricity exports from the Republic to Britain are likely to begin in earnest next week when the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, meets his opposite number, Charles Hendry, in London.
The theory is that wind farms based either on land or offshore could hook directly into the British national grid and export wind-generated electricity.
EU legislation provides a framework for individual member states to strike formal agreements opening up their markets to arrangements such as this. Rabbitte and Hendry are set to begin discussing this next week.
If a deal is done, it could happen by the end of this year or early 2013.
Not surprisingly, a number of players in the wind energy industry are already eyeing up the opportunities that they believe will arise.
A number of potential investors have themselves had talks with both the Irish and British governments about the possibility of establishing wind farms here that will ultimately supply electricity to our neighbouring island.
The sector’s lobbyists have been quick to point out that there will be broader spin-off benefits for the economy as a whole. Brian Britton of National Offshore Wind (NOW) Ireland, says that if the two governments agree a deal, then that will bring in developers, who will in turn require suppliers and services.
Kenneth Matthes of the Irish Wind Energy Association makes a similar point. He says that a deal will give rise to “significant investment opportunities” for new and existing companies.
Belfast’s Harland Wolff shipyard, in the news earlier this year because of the Titanic centenary, has a successful division that services offshore wind developers. Turbines are assembled and installed from its dockyards.
The numbers employed, up to 500 at times, are a far cry from its ship-building heyday, but the wind industry has given it a new lease of life.
Harland and Wolff is part of the Norwegian Fred Olsen Group, which, in partnership with Treasury Holdings, has plans to invest in an offshore wind farm on the Codling Bank off the east coast, designed to export power directly to Britain.
One business that recently expressed interest in these opportunities is Mainstream Renewable Power, the company headed by Airtricity founder, Eddie O’Connor.
There are a number of other players in the mix, mainly home-grown and with some experience in the wind energy business. It is likely that they will bring in overseas investors, to back their projects, but these backers are only likely to begin emerging from the woodwork if a deal is done.