Under-sea renewable energy Isles network is 'achievable'
A sub-sea renewable energy grid connecting Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic is "viable and competitive", according to a new study.
The report was published as government ministers from the three countries met to discuss the proposal in Glasgow.
The grid concept, known as Isles, would harness wind, wave and tidal energy and help meet European Union renewable energy targets.
The report says: "The study concludes that an Isles cross-jurisdictional offshore integrated network is economically viable and competitive under certain regulatory frameworks and can potentially deliver a range of wider economic, environmental and market-related benefits."
The maximum resource potential is estimated to be 16.4 gigawatts (GW), comprising 12.1GW from offshore wind and 4.3GW of wave and tidal.
The Irish-Scottish programme aims for 6.2GW by about 2020, described in the report as "ambitious but achievable". The study said there are no technological barriers or "adverse environmental constraints" to the development of the network.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "I see access to diversified sources of reliable and renewable energy as a core building block for sustainable economic growth.
"The Isles concept study presents us with a realistic picture of an energy future where the regional wind, wave and tidal energy resources located far off our coasts are harnessed and used for our mutual good. This will not happen quickly or easily."
She said governments need to work with the energy sector to make investment more attractive without imposing "undue costs" on customers.
"Connecting our transmissions networks is a challenging endeavour, but the rewards will be huge. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss," she added.
The Republic's Energy Minister, Pat Rabbitte, said: "With a sea area that is almost 10 times the size of our land mass, Ireland has abundant ocean renewable energy resources, potentially a multiple of the energy requirements of our own system.
"By co-operating with our neighbouring administrations, we can work together to create a viable market for these resources. The study shows that we have the potential to reduce infrastructure costs by working together."