Wind energy could contribute extra €5bn a year to GDP, says report

Possibility of Ireland exporting wind energy in the short term suffers setback

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has warned that a deal, which would mean the erection of 2,100 wind turbines in the midlands to export energy to the UK, would not proceed as planned because the British government had not made sufficient progress on the issue. Photograph: Getty Images

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has warned that a deal, which would mean the erection of 2,100 wind turbines in the midlands to export energy to the UK, would not proceed as planned because the British government had not made sufficient progress on the issue. Photograph: Getty Images

Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 01:00

Ronan McGreevy

Wind energy could contribute an additional €5 billion per year to gross domestic product (GDP) in the next decade if Ireland exports renewable power, according to a new report.

The report by global engineering firm Pöyry Management Consulting was compiled for the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), the national association for the wind industry. The findings were presented at an IWEA conference in Dublin yesterday.

The possibility of Ireland being an exporter of wind energy in the short-term has suffered a setback as a result of disagreements between the UK coalition government parties over future energy policy.

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has warned that a deal, which would see the erection of 2,100 wind turbines in the midlands to export energy to the UK, would not go ahead as planned because the British government had not made sufficient progress on the issue. However, he has held out the possibility that a deal could be back on track if there was a change of government in the UK after the next general election.

IWEA chief executive Kenneth Matthews said the report showed the industry had a “strong message” about the benefits wind energy brings to Irish society. Wind energy had generated 28 per cent of average electricity in the State in the last three months during the winter, which had been exceptionally windy.

He said 78 per cent of the submissions to the Department of the Environment on draft guidelines on wind energy came from counties that had no current installed capacity. Some 2,000 alone came from Co Westmeath, which has no wind turbines at the present time.

By contrast 67 responses had come from Cork, which has more installed wind power than any other county, and an average of 50 came from counties where turbines are currently located.

Mr Matthews said the pattern of submissions showed that where wind turbines currently operate, “communities are in harmony with wind producers”.

A recent decision by the advocate-general of the EU might make it easier for Irish wind producers to export to the UK even without an intergovernmental agreement (IGA), according to a specialist in European environmental law.

The case involved a Finnish wind energy company seeking access to the Swedish grid.

The Swedish energy authority had refused to allow the Finnish producer to avail of the same subsidies that had been available to Swedish companies.

The Finnish producer challenged the decision.

Alice Whittaker from Philip Lee solicitors said the advocate-general had given a “very strong opinion” that this was in contravention of EU law and that wind energy producers should be entitled to the same subsidy in member states irrespective of where the energy is produced.

Ms Whittaker maintained that, if the European Court of Justice upholds the advocate-general’s opinion, it will allow Irish wind energy producers to avail of better subsidies in the UK than they have at home.

The final judgment on the case is expected in the coming months.