Ryan outlines offshore energy plan


A “roadmap” for the development of offshore energy that claims Ireland could export 10 times the amount of electricity used domestically was published this morning by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan.

Addressing a conference attended by the US energy secretary Steven Chu and director of the International energy agency Nobuo Tanaka, Mr Ryan said the plan showed how offshore wind, wave and tidal energy resources could be maximised for Ireland and Europe’s benefit in the years ahead.

Mr Ryan told the International Sustainable Energy conference in Dublin’s convention centre that renewable onshore energy could almost meet the Government’s target of supplying 40 per cent of our electricity by 2020.

But he said as much as 10 times the State’s total electricity requirement of five to six gigawatts, some 50 to 60 gigawatts, could be exported by 2050 if offshore wind and marine resources were exploited. Mr Ryan said the roadmap had shown this could be achieved without significant environmental impacts.

He said that contrary to generally accepted forecasts, wind energy would be 10 per cent more expensive than fossil fuels, Ireland’s strong wind resource would ultimately be cheaper.

Mr Ryan also revealed EU energy ministers from nine countries would meet next month to sign a detailed agreement to advance proposals for a new offshore grid involving northwestern EU countries. The ministers are from the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, and Ireland. Norway is also expected to be included and become the 10th signatory.

The plan for the new grid would then go forward to be discussed by an EU heads of government summit on energy in February, paving the way for Ireland to exploit potentially huge offshore wind and marine resources.

“We are not a threat here,” Mr Ryan said. “Everything has been set up for us to exploit the opportunity which we have in front of us. The rules in Europe were designed to allow it and make it happen."

They were set up to increase the use of renewable energy, he added.

The Minister said interconnection between Ireland and the United Kingdom was progressing and he also revealed he would meet UK energy secretary Chris Huhne this month to discuss an export deal with the United Kingdom. Eirgrid was already discussing new connections with France, Belgium and the Netherlands he said.

“This is very real, this is very much happening today. This is very much at the centre of Government thinking” he said.

"Every megawatt of renewable energy that goes onto the Irish national grid reduces our €6 billion annual fossil fuel bill, reduces our carbon emissions and creates Irish jobs. Today’s study shows that we have a massive potential for renewable energy off our shores” he concluded.