The director of one of Europe’s leading energy producers and owner of indigenous Irish energy supplier Airtricity has warned that Ireland is being left behind in the development of offshore wind and marine generation. Addressing over 400 delegates at the annual conference of the Irish Wind Energy Association, Scottish and Southern Energy Group finance director Gregor Alexander said that this is resulting in a significant lost opportunity for the Irish economy and job creation here.
“Returns on our Irish onshore wind farms are marginal. More attractive returns are available in the UK. Of even more concern is that Ireland is being left behind in the development of offshore wind and marine generation. These technologies offer considerable export and job opportunities but Ireland is not maximising them,” he said.
Mr Alexander pointed out that for the renewable sector here to reach its true potential it needs to forge ahead with market coupling with the UK and to broaden its interconnection plans from just linking with the UK to include an interconnection to France as well.
“As a very small market in European terms Ireland, at a minimum, needs profound interconnection and market coupling with the UK. Coupling would bring economies of scale, a more diverse generation portfolio, the opportunity to export renewable electricity and ensure customers benefit from increased competitive energy supply,” he elaborated. “We would also encourage Ireland to go further seeking interconnection further afield. In Scotland, for example, we are looking to Norway and Iceland to tap into hydro and geothermal resources respectfully.”
An interconnector from Ireland to France would not only access French power in winter but it would provide an export opportunity in summer for Ireland’s generation fleet to supply France’s air conditioning load.
The Scottish and Southern Energy finance director also said that a more pragmatic approach to planning issues is also required in Ireland to bring an end to the current conflict between Irish energy and planning.
For example, SSE Renewables was recently refused planning permission on the basis of ‘the negligible probability’ that the proposed wind farm could pollute a water body some 25KM away, despite having recently completed a wind farm adjacent to a water body.