Wave energy plan misses out on EU €20m
ESB scheme got green light for funds but technology will not be ready for deadline
The waves of the North Sea break in front of a beach of Heligoland, Germany. A leaked European Commission document shows Westwave is the only project to be withdrawn out of 23 awarded €1.2 billon in funding last December. Photograph: Christof Martin/EPA
The Government has had to turn down €20 million in European Union funding awarded to the ESB’s flagship wave energy project because the technology required is not ready.
The Westwave scheme is supposed to pave the way for commercialisation of wave energy in Ireland by breaking the ground on permitting, foreshore licences, grid access and local infrastructure.
“Our assessment suggested that suitable wave energy technologies would not be ready on time for a 2015 deployment,” a spokeswoman for ESB said.
Westwave’s funding under the EU’s NER300 scheme for innovative renewable energy and carbon capture and storage technologies was conditional on a December 2015 operation deadline.
A leaked European Commission document shows Westwave is the only project to be withdrawn out of 23 awarded €1.2 billon in funding last December. It was the only successful wave energy project due for funding.
ESB hopes to win back the money in the second round of NER300 grants, which will be made next year and will come with a 2018 deployment deadline. The spokeswoman confirmed that on top of state support, its own finance and that of other companies collaborating on the project, “additional funding will be required from other sources including NER300”.
But far less money will be available in the second round of NER300 and there are 33 projects in the running including Westwave. The EU is financing NER300 through sales of carbon credits. While 200 were monetised for the first round raising €1.5 billion, only 100 million credits are being sold for the second round and the price they command has dropped.
Sales of the first 10.6 million allowances took place in November and raised €47 million. At that rate, the second NER300 fund will be only a third of the size of the first one. No third round is planned.
Asked whether Westwave’s future was now uncertain, the ESB spokeswoman said: “With any project of this nature where technologies have not yet been proven for deployment, there are many technological and financial risks which can impact on the project timelines. ESB is actively managing these risks.”
The exact location of the project along the west coast has not yet been decided, nor has a figure been put on the total expected cost, which will “depend on the technologies selected and how much these will cost to deploy”.
The 2010 National Renewable Energy Action Plan identifies wave energy as likely to play an important role in Ireland’s energy mix after 2020.