The government of Ireland has approved £400 million in renewable energy projects that will generate electricity for 250,000 homes.DUBLIN, Ireland 2002-02-14 [SolarAccess.com] Forty companies bid in an open process for 15-year contracts under the Alternative Energy Requirement Programme, which is in its fifth phase to promote the use of wind, hydro and biomass technologies. The generated power is sold to Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board, and the latest applications will double the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources. “I had sought a total of 225 megawatts of electricity generating plant using renewable sources but, in fact, a total of almost 370 MW was tendered,” says Joe Jacob, minister of state with the department of Public Enterprise. “I am delighted to say that the overwhelming response to the competition and the competitive prices bid are evidence of the huge interest in renewable energy throughout Ireland.” The program will prevent the emission of 1.5 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and reduce emissions that are equal to 10 percent of Ireland’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. It will reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels by two million barrels of oil a year and direct £40 million from imported fuel purchases into the domestic economy. Ireland generates 7 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. In 1999, it set a target of 12 percent from green power by 2005. A recent directive from the European Commission obliges Ireland to generate 13 percent of its power from renewables by 2010. Last month, the government gave the private company, Eirtricity, approval to build a £640 million windfarm that would be the largest offshore facility in the world. The project will generate 520 MW of power, 10 percent of the country’s needs. “This illustrates how companies are determined to utilize the substantial resources of renewable energy, especially wind, available to us and of course the continuous improvement we are seeing in renewable energy technologies,” adds Jacob. “This puts us on track to meet our obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the generation of electricity from fossil fuel.” Government documents notes that biomass, hydropower and wind technologies “cannot yet compete with conventional electricity generation in an open competitive market,” and there is a need for special support which can be justified under EU competition and state aids rules under the EU’s environmental protection guidelines. The Alternative Energy Requirement Programme provides access to a power purchase contract with the Electricity Supply Board, which purchases the output of selected stations at guaranteed prices for 15 years. This generates sufficient confidence for investors to secure finance which would not otherwise be provided, explains Jacob. Only projects accepted by his department are entitled to conclude such contracts. AER-V is the fifth in a series of competitions which started in the mid-1990s, and is the largest single offering to the market. The latest search of 255 MW, and the response of 367 MW, compares to a total of 130 MW in the preceding four competitions.