Sunday 10 February 2008

Wind industry to invest €4bn after subsidies announced

New Government supports to encourage the development of renewable energy announced yesterday were immediately followed by a pledge from the wind industry to invest more than €4 billion in the sector over the next five years, writes Tim O'Brien

Announcing new price supports for electricity generated from biomass, offshore wind and the sea, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan, said the supports of up to €220 per megawatt hour (MWh), were in line with what other countries were offering.

But he said in Ireland the supports were combined with some of the finest wind, wave and tidal energy resources in the world, making the island exceptionally rewarding for investors.

Echoing comments by Dr Werner Kruckow, managing director of turbine manufacturer Siemens, Mr Ryan urged the industry to adopt a "sense of urgency" in building wind energy infrastructure, as Ireland would be competing for expertise and machinery with the EU and Russia in the rush to source renewable energies. The industry should, he said, now "think big, and be ambitious" in bringing forward its development plans.

The subsidies announced by the Minister include €220 per MWh for tidal and wave energy from the sea; €120 for energy from biomass (wood and anaerobic digestion) and €140 for off-shore wind energy. The prices are guaranteed for a period of 15 years. Mr Ryan said the changes could secure carbon savings of €170 million per year.

Asked how much the subsidies would eventually cost the taxpayer, Mr Ryan said renewable energy was already subsidising electricity generated from fossil fuels and households were already getting reduced electricity bills as a result.

Mr Ryan also revealed his department was working with colleagues in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to expand proposed interconnectors into a sub-sea transmission grid along the Irish Sea.

"This could be part of a new extended offshore grid connecting wind farms from other jurisdictions so that electricity could be produced on a consistent and predictable basis. If we can connect and integrate wind farms from other jurisdictions, electricity will be produced wherever the wind is blowing."

Responding to the Minister's announcement, director of offshore development at Airtricity, Torben Anderson, said five companies in the National Offshore Wind Association had plans for 2,160 MW of offshore wind generated power, in existing lease areas in Irish waters.

The new policy will "unlock the potential of offshore wind energy in Ireland and capacity would be now brought forward immediately, with wind farms initiated in 2008 becoming operational around 2012", Mr Anderson said.

The Irish Times

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