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Taoiseach and Cameron may resolve wind farm issue, says Rabbitte

British offer of subsidies for wind turbine farm in Irish midlands has been cut back

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte said the involvement of the Taoiseach and British prime minister may force progress on the windfarm subsidies issue. Photograph: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

The offer of subsidies by the British Government for a 1,000-strong wind turbine farm in the Irish midlands has been cut to match subsidies it pays for onshore green energy in Britain, Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has said.

Under the plan, which would be a world first if agreed, up to four gigawatts of green energy would be produced in Ireland and exported to Britain. However, Britain would be able to include the Irish-produced energy to meet its European Commission-set targets for 2020.

‘Somewhat skewed’

Speaking to The Irish Times in London yesterday, Mr Rabbitte said it was always understood the Treasury subsidies paid to the Irish companies would be higher than those paid now for onshore green energy in Britain, but less than those paid for UK-produced offshore energy.

“That was always the basis on which we were talking. That has become somewhat skewed in recent weeks, where we are now being invited to compare onshore with onshore. We are not comparing onshore with onshore,” the Minister said.

The obstruction in the negotiations featured during Downing Street talks this week between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British prime minister David Cameron, where both leaders instructed officials to look at finding solutions over the next three months.

The involvement of the Taoiseach and prime minister may force progress, Mr Rabbitte said. “Maybe if the Cabinet office and the Taoiseach’s department politically really wanted this to happen, maybe this will break the ice,” he said.

‘Resolving issues’

“ I don’t want to minimise the difficulties I see in resolving the outstanding issues, he said, adding quickly, “unless there is manifest economic and employment benefit to Ireland there won’t be an inter-governmental agreement.”

The developers, Element, Mainstream and now Bord na Móna needed decisions by summer if they are to meet the EU-imposed deadline for greater green energy production in the European Union, he said.

“The problem is that it takes two to tango. There are issues of substance that remain unsolved. We have been working at them very hard for some considerable time and we have prepared a body of work that we don’t see reflected on the other side of the table,” Mr Rabbitte added.

The Irish Government, he said, has put in place a host of measures: planning, regulatory design, economic analysis, the cost-benefit analysis. The cost benefit analysis for example shows considerable economic rebounding to both jurisdictions.”

Mr Rabbitte said 6,500 jobs are likely during construction, along with permanent care and maintenance posts that would “run into the hundreds”.

Equally, local authorities would get rates, “a big money-spinner”, he said.

Local communities would get special payments, as well as farmers and landowners, while the Irish State would get a still-to-be determined “dividend of trade”, he said.