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Irish Politicians Push For European Electrical 'Supergrid'

April 27 2009 -

Ireland and Northern Ireland can become major players in European renewables, but they must first fast-track plans to link their electricity grids with England, Scotland and Wales, says John Gormley, leader of the Irish Green Party.

Photograph: Irish Green Party

The slow progress in developing Ireland’s renewables sector is primarily due to the lack of such a link, which would allow Ireland to become a net exporter of green electricity to the vast European market, Gormley says.

He compares Ireland’s green energy potential to that of Scotland, where 20% of its electricity is generated from renewables, while Ireland generates just 4%.

“One of the major factors slowing the development of renewable energy is the issue of research and development costs and potential payback,” Gormley said, speaking in Belfast. “If a wave energy developer could be guaranteed access to a market of 500 million people, there would be few such hesitations.”

He insists that such a link is commercially viable, citing the €600m ($789m) NorNed cable running between Norway and the Netherlands. Stretching 580km and commissioned in 2008, NorNed already generates cross-border trade of nearly €300m a year.

Irish firm Imera has already begun construction of its 350-megawatt (MW) ‘East-West’ interconnector between Ireland and Wales, which is due to be finished in 2010. But given that Imera is owned by troubled Norwegian firm Oceanteam, which recently announced severe losses and said it was cancelling a number of its projects, the future of the interconnector is left in some doubt.

Having such a grid link in place would rapidly spur on the development of offshore wind, wave and tidal projects off Ireland’s coasts, Gormley says. Not only would Ireland be able to export green electricity to the European continent via the UK, but it would also benefit from being able to import power from renewables powerhouses such as Spain and Germany.

“When the wind is blowing in Denmark, it could provide the power for people to watch Coronation Street in Cardiff,” he says. “When the sun is shining in Spain, the energy could be boiling kettles in Belfast. When four knots of tide is rushing through Rathlin Sound it could be heating water for a kid’s bath in Donegal.”

Karl-Erik Stromsta (

Updated: 2016/06/30

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