U.K. to Import Electricity From Irish Clean Energy Plants

The U.K. plans to import gigawatts of wind energy from Ireland to cut costs to consumers of lowering the greenhouse gas output of the nation’s power mix.

U.K. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey and his Irish counterpart, Pat Rabbitte, are signing a memorandum of understanding today that will chart how the countries will work together to establish an energy trading program, Davey’s department said in an e-mailed statement.

“Ireland has the potential to generate far more wind energy than we could consume domestically,” Rabbitte said in the statement. “The opportunity to export this green power presents an opportunity for employment growth and export earnings which we must seize.”

The U.K. aims to get 30 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020 from almost 12 percent now. It’s part of the nation’s effort to meet a European Union target of deriving 15 percent of all energy, including for heat and transportation, from renewables. EU rules say power produced in one nation can be used to meet another’s obligations.

The British government forecast in 2011 that renewable subsidies will add 54 pounds ($85) to a typical annual household bill in 2020, an increase more than offset by EU and U.K. energy efficiency policies.

Power Imports

“Trading power with Ireland could increase the amount of green power in our energy mix and potentially bring down costs for U.K. consumers,” Davey said in today’s statement. “Making the most of the natural renewable resource available around our islands could benefit the economies of both countries.”

Element Power, a unit of Hudson Clean Energy Partners of Teaneck, New Jersey, is planning an 8 billion-euro ($11 billion) project called “Greenwire” to develop and build 3,000 megawatts of onshore wind farms by 2018 in Ireland. The power would then be transferred via undersea cables to the U.K. Greenwire called last week in a statement for the British and Irish governments to “accelerate the policy required to unlock the potential for the project.”

About 3,000 to 6,000 jobs may be created during the construction phase of a 3,000-megawatt project, according to today’s U.K. statement, which didn’t mention the Greenwire plan. More jobs would be created for maintenance of the wind turbines during their 20-year operating life, and further employment may arise from the manufacture of turbines, cables, and other technology in both nations, it said.

“If analysis shows that renewables trading would be to mutual benefit, the next stage would be to develop an inter-governmental agreement for signing in 2014,” the U.K. department said in the statement. “A tight time line is essential if potential projects, which would be selected through an open competitive process, are to commence exporting wind energy from Ireland to the United Kingdom by 2020.”

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