Talks to enable Irish renewable generators to sell power to British customers have already dragged on for 14 months.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday, after a meeting with his British counterpart, David Cameron, that the countries may miss a target to begin trading by 2020.
At stake are billions of euro of planned investments in Irish wind farms. Offshore developers including Oriel Windfarm Ltd can only proceed if exports are possible, because the Government won’t subsidise power from turbines at sea.
“I’m confident the agreement will happen some time in the next 12 months,” Brian Britton, Oriel’s managing director, said. “If it takes the rest of the year and is finalised in 2015, we can be delivering energy in 2018.”
Imports would help Britain get 30% of electricity from renewables by 2020 from about 12% in 2013 as part of a European Union target on clean energy.
Ireland is on track to meet its own target, and doesn’t need to subsidise offshore wind farms, among the most expensive sources of energy.
Mainstream Renewable Power Ltd, Bord Na Mona Plc and Element Power plan to develop 10 giga-watts of onshore wind projects, provided they can export the electricity.
Element, set up in 2008 by Teaneck, New Jersey-based private equity company Hudson Clean Energy Partners, plans an €8bn, 3-gigawatt onshore wind project in Ireland called Greenwire to connect to the British grid by 2018.
Element chief executive Mike O’Neill said yesterday in an emailed statement that the announcement by the two prime ministers would “reassure” investors.
“It is vital that we secure a formalised inter-governmental agreement and clarity on how the UK’s contracts for difference will apply to international projects at the earliest opportunity so that we can proceed to deliver Greenwire,” Mr O’Neill said.
“It is probably not possible to do it in the timescale that was set out,” Mr Kenny said after yesterday’s meeting with Mr Cameron. Officials from both nations have been given three months to discuss issues including electricity prices and power connections between the nations, he said.
Assuming similar costs as Element, Mainstream’s planned 5 gigawatt Energy Bridge project, and Bord Na Mona’s 2 gigawatts of plans would bring spending to more than €26bn.