Wind agency seeks external expertise


Ireland may have to import expertise from countries such as Germany and Denmark to meet its targets for the proportion of electricity generated by wind, the Irish Wind Energy Association annual conference heard today.

It has called for the appointment of an energy czar to resolve problems with planning, access to the national grid and regulation which it says are preventing the development of some of the world’s best resources.

Association chief executive Dr Michael Walsh said bureaucracy and unnecessary risk was driving investors away from what should be a thriving market.

He said in order to meet the EU 2020 targets Ireland must add about 300MW of wind-generated electricity per year, but the annual increase had never reached this level and last year fell back to just 115MWs.

While there were difficulties connecting available projects to the national grid, over-complicated bureaucracy was hampering job creation and investment in Irish renewables, he said.

“The absence of a co-ordinated and cohesive system for facilitating the delivery of required installations to meet our 2020 targets is resulting in an unstable market for investment. Such is the instability that last year we saw a 58 per cent drop worth €265 million in the level of investment in the wind sector in Ireland.”

“Investors are lined-up and ready to go but the framework for investment is simply too volatile. Many rules and processes are under review and there is no overall co-ordination of the consents needed to make an investment in renewable energy in Ireland.

“Investors are being asked to make substantial financial commitments in advance of clarity on the regulations that will apply in the future. International financial providers are still interested in Ireland but they will no longer accept this level of uncertainty.”

A consequence of the current problems were wild swings in activity in the sector, he added.

“For example, we installed 250MW of wind in 2006 and then just 50MW in 2007. In 2009 we had 230MW installed but last year that was down to 115MW. The real shame is that this volatility makes it more difficult for local companies to capitalise on what should be a thriving sector. They will not speculate or invest in a market that fluctuates like ours does.”

Dr Walsh said: “We could be world leaders in smart energy technology and green finance but we need to stop putting barriers in the way of enterprises that want to help us meet our national targets and reduce our energy costs”.

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte said he was in no doubt wind could play a significant part in Ireland’s electricity generation and “possibly” be a source of export.

He added much work was being done with the UK and other countries in northwest Europe on the introduction of electricity interconnectors between the states.