Ireland-UK wind export plan sunk

Plans for large-scale wind power exports from Ireland to the UK by 2020 appear dead in the water today after the Irish energy minister confirmed no deal had been possible between the two governments.

Three developers – Bord na Mona, Mainstream Renewable Power and Element Power – had come forward with proposals to build onshore wind farms in Ireland for gigawatt-scale export to the UK.

Large plants in Ireland’s rural Midlands could help the UK meet its 2020 clean-power targets while also generating much-needed income for the Irish export economy, it was argued.

But those plans rested on an agreement between the two governments over the fine detail of the arrangement – not least the eligibility of Irish power plants for UK renewables incentives.

Irish energy minister Pat Rabbitte was quoted in his country’s media in early March as saying a deal was “doubtful”, although it looked at that stage as though there was still some negotiating to be done – and the issue was subsequently discussed by the two nations' premiers.

But Rabbitte today appeared to sound the death knell for any exports in time for the end of the decade when he said: “I regret that it has not been possible at this time to conclude an agreement as envisaged.”

The minister reaffirmed his view that large-scale exports offered benefits to both sides, but added: “However, this will not happen automatically. Renewable energy trading has to be designed to work.

“Following further discussions between my department and the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the UK since the Summit between the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Cameron in early March, I am confirmed in the view that given the economic, policy and regulatory complexities involved, and the key decisions yet to be taken by the UK, delivery by 2020 of a Midlands Wind Export Project is not now a realistic proposition.”

There has so far been no comment from any of the three potential developers on the impact of Rabbitte’s announcement on their plans, which between them added up to a potential 9GW of capacity.