Ireland-UK Wind Energy Plans Shelved

The possibility of Ireland being an exporter of wind energy in the short-term has been shelved because of future energy policy disagreements.
Published: Mon 31 Mar 2014

Wind energy has the potential to add an extra €5 billion per year to gross domestic product (GDP) in the next decade if Ireland exports renewable power. This is according to a report compiled by Pöyry Management Consulting at the request of the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), the national association for the wind industry.

However, the possibility of Ireland being an exporter of wind energy in the short-term is suffering a setback due to disagreements between the UK coalition government parties over future energy policy. Issues include subsidies and connections.

Officials from the British and Irish governments have been given three months to come up with a solution.

Deal may be off the table

The Irish and UK governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2013 to export wind power through a subsea link across the Irish Sea to Wales.

This deal now seems to be off the table and so are the number of construction and development jobs which would reach 47,240 on a person-years basis by 2020 and just over 38,000 between 2021 and 2030.

The agreement would have allowed the Republic of Ireland to build onshore wind farms and export the clean energy to the UK. This would certainly help the UK reach its 2020 targets.

According to Energy Minister, Pat Rabbitte, the tight timescale is a major concern. Role-players are concerned that the 2020 deadline may be over-ambitious for such a large-scale infrastructure project.

The announcement will come as a blow to developer Mainstream Renewable Power, which had signed a MoU for the development of the transmission line between the two countries. On top of this, the company had planned to erect up to 1,000 turbines in Ireland to provide power to the UK.

Mr Rabbitte warns that the deal, which would see the erection of 2,100 wind turbines in the midlands to export energy to the UK, may not go ahead as planned because the British government had not come to a conclusion on the issue. Mr Rabbitte says that the deal could become a reality if there was a change of government in the UK after the next general election.

Ireland’s wind energy market potential

Wind Energy is a growing sector in Ireland and Northern Ireland, creating jobs and benefiting communities. Currently, Ireland obtains 18% of its electricity from its 210 wind farms. The estimated installed wind energy capacity totals 2632MW.

The Pöyry Management Consulting study estimates that if Ireland can export wind energy to the UK, then the country will quickly become a net exporter of energy. By 2020, Ireland could be exporting €1.5bn a year worth of energy to the UK, with the figure rising to €2.8bn by 2030.

Pöyry Management Consulting notes that development of wind energy in Ireland – even without targeting energy exports – could deliver a cumulative €1.8bn in tax revenue to the Exchequer by 2030. That could hit €8.4bn if the country significantly expands its wind energy producing capacity in order to export to the UK.

While the UK still has a long way to go to hit its 2020 renewable energy targets, Ireland is much further progressed, with less than 5GW of new capacity needed to hit its quota.