Council told of chance to sell 'green' energy to Germany


GERMANY’S DECISION to close its nuclear power plants early offered major opportunities to Ireland and Britain to sell it renewable energy supplies, Scotland’s minister for finance John Swinney said yesterday.

The prospects for renewable energy and the need to create common rules for the sector between Ireland and Britain featured strongly during yesterday’s meeting at Lancaster House in London of the British-Irish Council.

Led by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, the council also includes representatives from the devolved governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the crown dependencies of the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

After the meeting, Mr Swinney said that Scotland had some years ago pushed strongly for the creation of an European Union-wide electricity grid so that renewable energy supplies could be sold anywhere.

He said the German decision to accelerate the closure of its nuclear plants much earlier than had been anticipated meant there was now “clearly an enormous opportunity for these islands to export renewable energy to the European mainland”.

Backing co-operation, Mr Clegg said the EU had laid down the core rules to govern renewable energy markets but “there is quite a lot of discretion and flexibility about how this is applied”.

“There is a very strong case that you get economies of scale and greater benefits in the long run if we interpret the same regulatory framework in a way which is consistent both in terms of interconnection, market integration etc,” Mr Clegg added.

However, there was little discussion on thoughts aired at the weekend by the British minister of state for energy, Charles Hendry, who said the British government could fund the development of wind farms in Ireland.

Britain does not have renewable projects in the pipeline to meet its 2020 European Union target of providing one-fifth of all its generating needs from green sources by 2020, while Irish developments have been held back because of a lack of markets for such energy supplies.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte told the meeting that Ireland and Britain needed “to develop appropriate market mechanisms that allow us to trade renewable energy across our jurisdictions”.

“A significant amount of our renewable resources are in more remote locations and we need to develop appropriate infrastructure and routes to market to allow us to maximise our collective return from our resources,” he said.

Mr Rabbitte said Ireland and Britain should co-operate in developing renewable resources.

“New infrastructure is not only expensive, but it can also be challenging and time-consuming to bring it through the planning and permitting systems,” he pointed out.