Ireland has an excellent and abundant wind energy resource. Expert advice suggests that Ireland has the capability to achieve our national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone, with capacity to spare.
Under European legislation (EU Renewable Energy Directive), it is possible for a Member State to make an agreement with another Member State to contribute to its targets.
It is in this context that the opportunity to harness this resource for the export market, and realise its potential for investment, job creation and economic growth has been identified.
Memorandum of Understanding
To this end, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on energy cooperation with his United Kingdom counterpart, Mr. Edward Davey, on 24 January 2013. This MoU clearly signals the joint interest of Ireland and the United Kingdom in developing the opportunity for trading in renewable energy to the mutual benefit of both countries.
The MoU triggered detailed analysis of how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Any such trading of renewable energy between the two States will seek to achieve more cost efficient uses of resources, drive down deployment costs, be sustainable in the long term, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
If analysis shows that renewables trading would be of mutual benefit, the next stage would be to develop an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for signing in 2014. A tight timeline is essential if potential projects, which would be selected through an open competitive process, are to commence exporting wind energy from Ireland to the United Kingdom by 2020.
The details of the MoU can be found here.
Development of an IGA
Detailed consideration of how Ireland’s onshore and offshore wind resources might be developed for export to the UK is now underway, with a view to determining if it is beneficial for both countries to enter into an IGA under the EU Renewable Energy Directive.
There are very complex issues to be considered, such as, the actual scale of the export generation capacity required by the United Kingdom, the approach to be taken to grid development, and the sharing of potential benefits between both States. Though it is ambitious, the target for completion of this work is early 2014, with a view to electricity being exported to the United Kingdom by 2020 in order to be counted towards the United Kingdom’s national target under the Renewables Directive.
The need for further analysis to identify in more detail Ireland’s capacity to develop generation and transmission infrastructure for large scale export of renewable energy, taking into account environmental and planning considerations, has been identified.
In addition to the requirement for an IGA to be in place, project developers will need to secure planning permission for proposals of a significant scale for renewable energy export projects.
The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, T.D announced on the 31st July 2013 that his Department will develop an overall Renewable Energy Export Policy and Development Framework which will guide An Bord Pleanála when considering any proposals for renewable energy export projects.
The framework and associated environmental assessments (including Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment) will be prepared over the coming twelve months and will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders including local authorities, potential project developers and local communities to be consulted and have an input into the national policy for wind export.
Further information on the process to develop the Renewable Energy Export Policy and Development Framework can be found here.