Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says billions of euro of investment in offshore energy will ultimately ‘pay for itself’

EU leaders at the North Sea Summit, in Ostend, Belgium. Photot: Reuters/Yves Herman

Gabija Gataveckaite in Ostend

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted that while tens of billions of euro will need to be invested in offshore energy this will ultimately “pay for itself”.

He was commenting as he attended a major offshore wind energy summit in Ostend in Belgium today with a view to increasing the use of offshore energy in Ireland.

He said that while it may need great public investment, it will result in a profit after the capital costs are paid.

“When it comes to investment, we’re going to need a combination of private and public investment. It’s going to take many billions. Tens of billions, we believe."

He said this investment will “pay for itself” because households and businesses pay for electricity.

“A lot of public investment that we make is really important and really valuable, but it never turns into profit. Investment in energy will turn into profit."

He said capital costs will be covered in the first few years and decades but after that it will become “profit making” as the energy will be exported.

“It’s a huge economic opportunity as well,” he added.

Mr Varadkar admitted that although the power is free, and all that is needed is the infrastructure, installing the grid will be a “huge job”.

“I think what we’re going to need is a master grid, a super grid, for all of Europe. If you think of our grid that we have at the moment, like roads, we’re still running off local and regional roads.

“Now we need to build European energy motorways essentially to harvest that offshore energy and bring it all over to Europe.”

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, who also attended the summit, said offshore wind electricity will mean lower bills for households.

“It will be wind and solar at the centre of our system, that’s the cheapest power supply in the world. It’s also the most secure, it’s also the most cleanest, it’s also the one where we have the most advantage,” he said.

“It’s going to be better for the consumer, it’ll be cheaper, the cost of the fuel is free - the wind comes from nature.”

The leaders of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway also attended the North Sea summit, joined by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

The summit is also being attended by representatives from 120 companies, with the event aiming to speed up the development of offshore wind in the North Sea, as well as the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The summit will result in the Ostend Declaration, which will lay out how this will be done.

A major power station in the North Sea will aim to reduce reliance on Russian energy.