Ireland Increases Support for Renewable Energy Projects

Not every renewable energy project makes it off the ground, even with government support. Noel Dempsey, who is the minister for the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (DCMNR) in Ireland, announced a second round of government support for the construction of an additional 235 MW of new renewable energy projects,

Some of the newly approved projects will replace previously approved projects from AER that could not proceed for a variety of reasons. AER is the Alternative Energy Requirement Program, which is operated by the DCMNR. The program supports the building of new renewable energy powered electricity generating stations. Government support comes in the form of access to a power purchase contract with the Electricity Supply Board Customer Supply (ESB CS). The ESB contracts to purchase all the output of the selected stations at guaranteed prices for up to 15 years. This guarantee generates sufficient confidence for investors to provide project financing, which would not otherwise be provided. Only projects accepted by the Minister are entitled to conclude such contracts. Goals for Ireland’s renewable energy industry come from the EU Renewables Directive, which states that the country must have over 13 percent of electricity consumption derived from renewable sources by the year 2010. This Directive helps to ensure that Ireland is on its way to meeting its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol Agreement, which limits Irelands emissions of greenhouse gases to 13 percent above 1990 levels. Wind energy is the country’s most plentiful renewable energy source, and the DCMNR has contracted for 177.1 MW of power from onshore wind energy projects over 5 MW, and 57 MW from onshore wind energy projects under 5 MW. In addition, Dempsey confirmed offers of contracts to two offshore wind demonstration projects, and just over 3 MW of power from three biomass combined heat and power projects. Supporting renewable energy projects through secure purchase contracts should help to establish a market where renewable energy technology can compete with the established power generation businesses in Ireland. Money previously spent on importing energy to the country would be put back into the country’s economy, and should help facilitate the creation of 140 new long-term jobs in renewable energy equipment operation and maintenance, and over 600 full-time construction jobs over the two-year building phase, according to Dempsey. A Renewable Energy Development Group, which is under the direction of the DCMNR, was formed in May of 2003. This group will help to guide the growth of the renewable energy industry in the country. “The Renewable Energy Development Group will advise on future options on policies, targets, programs and support measures to develop the increased use of renewable energy in the electricity market to 2010 and beyond,” Dempsey said. The group’s report is due by the end of this month. Its recommendations will form the basis of a new policy to further increase the penetration of renewable energy technologies in the electricity market.
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