Ireland and the UK are celebrating the activation of the first electricity interconnector between the two countries, with the UK now set to benefit from Ireland’s surplus wind power.
The €600m connection, running beneath the Irish Sea and carrying enough power for 300,000 homes, marks a step forward in efforts to build a high-voltage network joining Britain and its neighbours, according to the FT.
The new undersea cable between Deeside, north Wales, and Woodland, County Meath, in Ireland, can transport 500 MW of power either way, and enable the UK to meet its renewable energy committments.
It was built by the Irish operator EirGrid, with support from EU funds, investments from BNP Paribas and Barclays, and loans from the European Investment Bank.
Along with an existing interconnector between Scotland and Northern Ireland, it brings the total capacity for electricity imports to Britain from across the Irish Sea to 1,000mw.
“Ireland has some fantastic renewable energy resources and this interconnector will provide access to the massive UK customer base,” said Ed Davey, UK energy secretary.
With green energy currently accounting for only 3 per cent of the UK total, the government is exploring whether it can use flexibility in the EU directive to import Irish wind power to help meet its targets at lower cost.
Mr Davey said Ireland was one of the few countries in the EU likely to generate more renewable energy than it needed to meet its targets, presenting opportunities for trading.
Anlgo-Irish talks on agreeing a framework for renewables trading began this year. Both sides hope to sign a memorandum of understanding soon.
The UK is struggling to find the estimated £110bn of investment needed to build enough green energy infrastructure to meet its targets, with the threat of legal action and fines from the European Commission if it fails.
Ireland also has more interconnector projects in the planning phase as it seeks to take advantage of its ocean winds by building more turbines.
“Ireland has the space and the planning system to build out wind energy capacity quickly, whereas there have been lots of objections in the UK,” said Eddie O’Connor, chief executive of Mainstream Renewable Power, which is conducting a feasibility study with REN of Portugal and the UK’s National Grid on another link beneath the Irish Sea.
“We plan to bypass the Irish grid and build an energy bridge direct to the UK, which will help it meet its renewable energy targets,” he said.
An interconnector between north Wales and Arklow in Ireland has also been proposed.
Dermot Byrne, chief executive of EirGrid, said increased connectivity with Britain would help promote investment in Irish wind farms by providing an export route at times when the wind was blowing strongly.
Mr Davey said the EU renewables target would be met. “The UK does not renege on its international commitments,” he said.
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