A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed by the Irish Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabitte TD and the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy, Edward Davey. This will in turn lead to a full inter-governmental agreement to allow Ireland to export some of its wind-generated electricity to Britain.
“We welcome this hugely important initial step in delivering an energy trade agreement and we commend both the Irish and British governments for their work and commitment in continuing to advance this important opportunity for both countries” said Kenneth Matthews, CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA). “This agreement, as highlighted in IWEA’s document, “Export Policy - A renewables development policy framework for Ireland” could have enormous benefits for Ireland. For example, up to 30,000 indigenous jobs could be created countrywide, coupled with investments of over €18bn by 2020 if the required enablers along with this agreement are put in place. In addition to this, it has the potential to directly assist local authorities by increasing current annual commercial rates from €11.5 Million in 2012 to €70 Million by 2020. All these benefits will provide a huge boost to both the local and national economy which will be driven by a sustainable industry that only keeps expanding in terms of ambition and scope.”
Mr Matthews went on to state that the electricity sector in Ireland is on the cusp of transformational change with renewables, and wind energy in particular, at the heart of it. The efficient use of existing and new interconnectors to increase Ireland’s ability to integrate wind energy and to export surplus wind-generated electricity will be central to this transition. The new agreement will also provide further confidence and assurance to investors and energy companies alike and is something that the IWEA has worked towards consistently and diligently for many years. Mr Matthews added that the IWEA continues to call on the Irish government to establish a Government and Industry Implementation Group which would seek to maximise the opportunities available to Ireland from exporting renewable energy, thereby positioning the country as one of the premier destinations for investment in the sector.
“Today’s announcement is great news for Ireland Inc. and a major boon for developers” commented Feilim O’Caoimh, Head of Commercial and Renewable Energy Units at McDowell Purcell. “While the two governments must now work together to develop a full intergovernmental agreement between the two jurisdictions and agree a competitive tender for the right to construct the interconnectors – it is important to note that it will be for developers rather than government to acquire and develop the wind farm sites themselves.”
According to Mr O’Caoimh a number of substantial developers have been acquiring land rights for the purposes of servicing the interconnectors but a myriad of legal issues lie in wait, including the securing of foreshore licenses on either side of the Irish Sea and establishing a regime for purchasing the electricity in the UK or accommodating it within the existing regime.
“Undoubtedly, planning for projects of this scale is going to be a significant issue” he said, “and it will be interesting to see if the Irish government has any appetite to modify the existing planning regime.”