UK and Ireland strike deal for green energy
British and Irish ministers have signed a deal that could see huge development of onshore and offshore wind farms around Ireland.
Ireland's Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte, and the UK's energy secretary Edward Davey signed a memorandum of understanding to move forward plans to allow Irish wind farms to export electricity to Britain.
The move will help pave the way for an intergovernmental agreement on the trading of electricity between the countries.
Under the plan, a number of companies is seeking to erect hundreds of huge wind turbines across the boggy midlands of Ireland, with the power generated being transferred to the UK via undersea cables that would join the grid at two points in Wales.
Five offshore wind farms are in advanced planning around Irish waters - Oriel Windfarm, Codling Wind Park, The Dublin Array, Arklow Bank and the Sceirde Wind Farm in Galway.
Oriel is a 330 megawatt offshore wind farm, with its licence area located 22km off the coast of Dundalk, Co Louth. The €900m (£760m) project is to consist of 55 turbines, which are estimated to become operational by 2016.
Brian Britton, Oriel's managing director, said that the signing of the agreement marked a historic day for the UK and Ireland.
"This is the first step on the way to a new indigenous export to rival the agri-food and manufacturing sectors," he said.
"We can export tens of millions of pounds worth of renewable energy and replace the tens of millions of pounds worth of fossil fuels that we import.
"Britain will have difficulties in meeting its renewables targets and we are a neighbour who can help supply that renewable energy both to the UK and the rest of Europe - it's a win-win situation.
"As well as the export capabilities, and the economic benefits, this single energy market will help stimulate job creation, including in the supply chain.
"People have to look to the future, we have to accept that we can no longer rely on fossil fuels. We have to look at safety of supply and there are opportunities in both the offshore and onshore markets."
He added that the next step is to put a trading mechanism in place to allow for energy trading.
Britain says Irish power is a cheaper renewable than offshore wind. Developer Element Power says the plan would save UK consumers £7bn over 15 years.
Element Power's Peter Harte said their onshore turbines will be spread around 40 clusters in five counties. Mr Rabbitte said that the process was in its infancy and no decisions had been made about how the energy for export would be generated.