Ireland’s chance to become a renewable energy superpower – Saudi Arabia Wind – approached on Friday when a deal was signed with France to start work on the €1.6 billion Celtic Interconnector project.
The project will connect Ireland to the continental electricity grid for the first time. The UK link is the only current external link for the country.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan, French Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher and representatives of the European Commission and European Investment Bank (EIB) Mark Foley of Eirgrid and Xavier Pichaczyk of the French electricity company were present in Paris. RTE signed the agreement at the Irish Ambassador’s office.
Mr Martin said the 575km cable between May County Cork and Brittany “represents the deep and enduring ties between our two countries”.
The 700 MW high-voltage cable will carry electricity from French nuclear power plants and renewables to Ireland, and from Irish wind and solar power plants to France. It will have the capacity to power 450,000 homes. The interconnection will send electricity from the country where electricity is cheaper at any given time. Competitive pricing should reduce electricity costs for consumers, especially if reliance on gas decreases.
If the price is low in France, the electricity will go to the Irish market. If the price is low in Ireland, it will go the other way. The real benefit for us over the next decade is that we have more electricity. “We have a surplus,” Ryan said.
“When the wind isn’t blowing, we have this spare capacity from France to meet our system needs. That’s the beauty of it. It fits. The balanced system between variable supply and variable demand makes it a win-win system for both markets.”
No one knows how much electricity would be atomic and renewable, Ryan said, adding that “you can’t separate which electron it is” and “is part of a synchronized system.”
Wind generates two-thirds of Ireland’s electricity. “We’re going to be strong in solar for years to come,” said Ryan, ahead of the grid tie-in in 2027. And by the end of the decade, the aim is that up to 80% of Ireland’s electricity will come from renewable energy.
“We’re big on renewables. This is where we really specialize; balancing renewable energy supplies on an isolated and synchronized grid,” Ryan said.
Ryan said developing offshore wind power in Ireland could boost existing electricity generation to 35 gigawatts. . “The export potential is one of the real opportunities here.”
Earlier, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said that “Ireland can be a renewable energy superpower…a successful clean energy transition”.
The commission contributes €530m to the cost of the interconnection, rising from €1bn in the previous estimate to €1.6bn due to higher steel costs, transportation and other variables. The European Investment Bank is lending €300m to the project, with Eirgrid paying 65% of the remaining cost and 35% of the RTE.
Britain appeared in a ghostly presence at the signing ceremony. In 1912, the bedroom of Edward, Prince of Wales, when he was the guest of the Marquis de Breteuil’s family for three months, was the ambassador’s office where the treaty was signed. Before the outbreak of World War I, King George V dined with the de Breteuil family in what is now the Irish Embassy.
Ryan said early feasibility studies for the scheme had been launched before Brexit in 2013 and it could have gone ahead regardless. Ireland imports a small proportion of its electricity, but it imports three-quarters of its gas from the United Kingdom.
Asked if interconnection will reduce reliance on UK power, Ryan said: “What we need to start thinking now is to connect the UK, France and Europe.” Ireland. If this renewed system is not territorial, if it is not based on cooperation, it will not work.
The UK will leave the North Sea Energy Cooperation group in 2020. The Commission and Germany have said it would be inappropriate for Britain to stay after Brexit, but others have argued that the commission should include the eight EU member states plus Norway and the European Commission. , which is not an EU body, but an intergovernmental body.
Ireland currently top the group and will host England again on December 18.
“What’s starting to happen is that we’re going through some of the aftermath of Brexit,” Ryan said. “The reinstatement of the UK’s North Sea energy cooperation agreement is a sign that we will not allow Brexit to undermine energy cooperation in the interest of all our interests.”