Ireland to power millions of homes in Britain through wind energy
IRELAND has agreed to sell wind energy to Britain in a move that could create thousands of jobs.
Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte said the country produces more energy than it can use and that an opportunity to trade with its nearest neighbours cannot be missed.
"Ireland has the potential to generate far more wind energy than we could consume domestically," Mr Rabbitte said.
"The opportunity to export this green power presents an opportunity for employment growth and export earnings which we must seize if we can."
Millions of British homes will be powered by clean electricity exported from Ireland following an agreement that could secure the State billions in UK investments.
The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) estimated that up to 30,000 jobs could be created across the country by 2020.
According to the Department of Energy, the construction phase of a 3,000 megawatt project alone could create up to 6,000 jobs.
The ongoing maintenance of turbines could also provide employment as well as the manufacturing of turbine, cables and other technology involved.
A new Bord na Mona project in Co Offaly consisting of 28 wind turbines is expected to provide clean electricity for 45,000 Irish households.
The 80 megawatt Mount Lucas windfarm, one of the biggest in Ireland and the UK, will be just one of a string of clean energy hubs that could export its wind energy across the Irish Sea.
IWEA chief executive Kenneth Matthews said Ireland stands to become a major renewable energy exporter.
"The electricity sector is on the cusp of transformational change with renewables and wind energy at the heart of it," Mr Matthews said.
"Efficient use of existing and new interconnectors to increase our ability to integrate wind energy and to export surplus wind-generated electricity will be central to this transition."
UK secretary of state for energy and climate change Edward Davey said the Ireland-Britain partnership would benefit the economies of both countries.
"Trading power with Ireland could increase the amount of green power in our energy mix and potentially bring down costs for UK consumers," Mr Davey said.
"Making the most of the natural renewable resource available around our islands could benefit the economies of both countries."
Mr Rabbitte and Mr Davey signed a memorandum of understanding during a conference hosted by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.
The memo affirms the two states' commitment to a strong partnership on energy issues and their electricity markets.
It is also aimed at reducing the states' dependence on fossil fuels.
"We will work closely with the UK government so we are in a position to move towards a formal agreement on energy trading," Mr Rabbitte said.
"We will tease out the very complex engineering and market issues so that, subject to their successful resolution and a decision by UK and Irish Ministers to proceed, in a year's time, we will be in a position to make an intergovernmental agreement providing a formal basis for energy trading."
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the deal marked a historic chance to transform the Irish economy.
"The UK gets cheaper Irish wind power while we get investment and income and the ability to balance our variable power supplies so we can move to a 100% renewable powered economy," he said.