The Government wants to make renewable energy one of Ireland’s key exports in order to capitalise on European regulations on the percentage of renewable energy a company is required to produce.
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, told a meeting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly that renewable energy was a government priority.
“Ireland’s overarching strategic objective is not just to make renewable energy an increasingly significant component of our domestic energy supply by 2020 but also to make it a significant component of our export sector. We have in Ireland a rich and abundant wind and ocean energy potential which I firmly believe can be harvested and exported as a real economic opportunity for this island,” he said.
The minister believes Ireland can easily meet the European targets of 20% of the country’s energy generated through renewables by 2020 and is hoping to develop an export market based on the spare capacity that Ireland’s combined on and offshore renewables could produce.
“Expert advice suggests Ireland has the capability to achieve its national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone, with capacity to spare. This means there is potential for projects of scale onshore that are aimed at export markets. It also means that our offshore wind resource can be developed as an export opportunity,” he said.
Despite the opportunity, Mr Rabbitte said there remains significant barriers to allowing energy flow out freely and money to flow back into Ireland.
“There are as yet unresolved policy issues, for both us and the British. First, we have to be clear as to the strategic benefit in establishing an export market. Is it better that this country host a series of private projects linked via their own private interconnectors to the UK national grid bypassing our domestic network — effectively off-Wales wind farms that just happen to be sited on Irish soil? Or do we want to integrate these projects into our own national transmission system?” he said.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to these projects is the question hanging over Britain’s EU membership.
Despite the fact that the developers of these projects are already actively trying to secure the rights to land for the construction of turbines, there is, as yet, no decision on how the State will participate or tax the sale of resources. “State participation need not be active: it can instead consist of profit-sharing, perhaps through our taxation system,” he said.
Mr Rabbitte did stress there could be between 2,000 and 6,000 jobs created, which is considerably less than the 50,000 figure Mainstream, promoters of the Energybridge project, have been suggesting.
“As an example, employment creation arising from a 3 Gigawatt project would be expected to be in the order of 3,000 to 6,000 job years in the construction phase, with the actual number dependent on the construction schedule to 2020. There would be about €1bn of construction cost spending on Irish civil engineering works over two to three years. There would also be additional jobs created in the ongoing maintenance of turbines over a 20-year operating life. Further employment opportunities would arise if turbines or components were manufactured in Ireland,” he said.
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