A formal energy trading agreement between Ireland and the UK must be signed within months if Mainstream Renewable Energy is to begin exporting electricity from the Irish midlands to the UK as planned by 2017.
Mainstream chief Eddie O'Connor welcomed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte and UK Secretary for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey today (Thursday) at a Dublin ceremony hosted by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, but said speed is now of the essence.
Today's agreement paves the way for green energy exports and will likely lead to an inter governmental agreement on energy trading. Yesterday Minister Rabbitte suggested such an agreement will most likely be reached next year. However, Mr O'Connor said full agreement must be reached as quickly as possible.
"Speed is of the essence," Mr O'Connor said. "The lead-time for High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) equipment is in excess of three years. To deliver our first electricity to the UK by 2017 will require a full agreement between the governments in the coming months."
Speaking at today's signing Minister Rabbitte outlined his thoughts on the subject. "The opportunity to export this green power represents an opportunity for employment growth and export earnings which we must seize if we can," he 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."
It's thought employment creation in the construction of a 3,000MW project would be in the order of 3,000 to 6,000 in the construction phase once an inter governmental agreement is signed, with additional jobs in maintenance and manufacture. Mainstream's Offaly-based 'Energy Bridge' project is much larger at 5,000MW.
"We haven't seen anything like the scale of this anywhere in the world," Mr O'Connor said. "5,000 megawatts is roughly equivalent to Ireland's peak electricity demand and this brings massive opportunities for job creation. Germany creates eight jobs for each megawatt of wind energy installed whereas in Ireland we only have one job for each megawatt. That is because Germany has a strong manufacturing base. Here in Mainstream we are strongly focused on bringing the manufacturing base to Ireland and we're in talks with major players to make this happen. If we could achieve German levels of employment, 5,000MW could bring up to 40,000 jobs."