Wind energy could provide 30,000 new jobs by 2020, claims lobby group


WIND ENERGY could create 30,000 new jobs by 2020, according to an industry lobby group, which yesterday called on State agencies to establish specialist units to promote the sector.

The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) published a report arguing that the Republic could export 6,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity – the equivalent of 15 average sized power plants – to Britain by the end of the decade.

The report estimates that the investment required to deliver this, along with a drive to attract wind turbine manufacturers to the Republic, could create up to 30,400 new jobs within eight years and bring in €18 billion in investment.

The association wants State agencies such as the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Forfás to establish specialist green energy units that would focus on attracting wind turbine manufacturers to the Republic.

The report, published at the organisation’s autumn conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, yesterday, argues that policy needs to look beyond meeting the renewable energy targets that it has agreed with the EU.

It should also focus on exploiting the opportunities offered by growth of the wind industry in Europe, the document says.

The association’s chief executive, Kenneth Matthews, said the Republic not only has the resources to meet its own renewable targets, but also has the potential to aid other EU countries in meeting theirs.

“This could lead to significant job creation, research and development opportunities and greater investment,” he said.

The Republic is committed to meeting 20 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 under an agreement with the EU.

Other EU states have similar commitments. To meet its targets, the association estimates that Britain needs to have the capacity to generate 18,000 MW of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte and his opposite number in Westminster, Charles Hendry, have already made an agreement that will allow Irish-based wind farms to link into Britain’s national grid and export electricity there.

A number of industry players, such as former Bord na Móna boss Eddie O’Connor’s Mainstream Power, and multi-national Element Power, are looking at developing large-scale wind farms that will export power to Britain.

Addressing the conference, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan said the report provided the Government and industry with a road map for an export-led energy industry.

The association’s chairman, Airtricity managing director Stephen Wheeler, said the benefits of this industry were “within reach”.