Republic could supply renewable power to UK

Tue, May 29, 2012, 01:00

TALKS ON a deal that could open up Britain’s electricity market to exports from renewable generators in the Republic will take place next month, according to Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte.

Mr Rabbitte launched the Government’s Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012-2020, which covers wind power, bio energy, wave and tidal power and research and development, in Dublin yesterday.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Rabbitte said that he will be meeting UK energy minister Charles Hendry next month for talks on an agreement that will allow renewable energy generators in the Republic to export power to Britain.

The agreement will cover electricity generated both onshore and offshore.

The Minister suggested that, in coming years, the Republic could end up exporting the same amount of electricity that it consumes every year to Britain.

The two ministers have already discussed opening Britain’s electricity market to generators operating in the Republic.

During a visit to Dublin last year, Mr Hendry said that his government would welcome Irishgenerated power.

Electricity supplies in Britain are coming under increasing pressure as one in four of its generating plants are reaching the end of their useful lives while demand for power is likely to increase.

Mr Rabbitte pointed out that before the Republic can begin exporting renewable power to Britain on a large scale, the two governments will have to conclude a trade agreement.

Industry bodies such as National Offshore Wind Ireland say that such an agreement would boost investment and job creation in the Republic.

The organisation yesterday welcomed the Minister’s comments and predicted that offshore wind will be “a major export resource” with markets available to it in Britain and northern Europe.

The strategy document points out that green energy and clean technology already support an estimated 19,000 jobs in the Republic.

Last year, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, an advisory body set up in 1997, said that an extra 10,000 jobs could be created in the sector by 2015 if the Government were to adopt appropriate policies.

Mr Rabbitte stressed yesterday that investment in the national electricity network will have to continue.

He said that while some critics argue that the State should step back from this during an economic downturn, he takes the opposite view, as this is a long-term investment.

Eirgrid, the State company that operates the national electricity grid, plans to spend €400 million on improving and expanding the network in the southeast and €280 million in the west.

The Republic has agreed with the EU that, by 2020, 40 per cent of all electricity consumed here will be generated from renewable power.

Mr Rabbitte said that the Government remains committed to that target.

The Republic uses between 6,000 megawatts and 7,000 megawatts of electricity. Wind farms have the capacity to generate over 1,600 megawatts of this.

Irish Wind Energy Association chief executive Kenneth Matthews said it was heartening to see that the strategy’s goals included a commitment to increasing the amount of electricity generated by onshore and offshore wind.