“Ireland has the potential to generate far more wind energy than we could consume domestically…”

Apparently, Ireland is to become Britain’s off-shore wind farm…  That seems to be the gist of the complaint from opponents to wind farms in the Irish Midlands, as reported in the Irish Times.

Andrew Duncan, spokesman for the Lakelands Wind Information Group in Co Westmeath, said: “It seems to be an Irish solution to a British problem – politically, they don’t want turbines in the British countryside.”

Last October, British energy minister John Hayes said his government would no longer have wind turbines imposed on rural communities while environment secretary Owen Paterson also referred to wind-farm “blight”.

Mr Duncan said the British government “appears to be delighted that Irish people seem less aware of the noise and visual pollution associated with wind turbines [and] don’t actually understand the scale of them”.

And at the Irish Economy blog, Richard Tol weighed in too

Yesterday, Pat Rabbitte and Ed Davey signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The MoU is crafted in terms of the Renewables Directive, which allows EU Member States to pool their targets. Essentially, the MoU gives the UK an exclusive claim on any excess (wrt target) renewables that Ireland may have. A monopsony is good for the buyer, but less attractive to the seller. Either the Irish government has little faith in the emergence of a market for renewable obligations, or perhaps Ireland felt it needed to do the UK a favour, for instance in return for the bailout.

The MoU does not specify any project, but there is an expectation (see here and here) of large wind farms in the Irish midlands, transmitted to England and Wales via a dedicated grid.

This is intriguing. Midland winds are not particularly favourable, and definitely cannot compete with the winds of England and Wales once the costs of long distance transmission, including an undersea cable, are accounted for. This project only makes sense when you consider the difficulties in building wind turbines in the England and Wales. Ireland’s comparative advantage is the weakness of its planning regulations.

Well, perhaps…  But colour me sceptical.  Particularly on the “dedicated grid”.  ANYhoo…  Here’s the source of the complaint, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Irish and UK Governments – “On cooperation in the energy sector” [scroll down].  From the associated [linked] press release

The Memorandum of Understanding affirms the two States’ commitment to:

• maintaining a strong partnership on energy issues;

• achieve closer integration of electricity markets, and

• maximise the sustainable use of low carbon renewable energy resources.

The MOU will trigger detailed analysis of how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Any such trading of renewable energy between the two States will seek to achieve more cost efficient uses of resources, drive down deployment costs, be sustainable in the long term, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

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. A tight timeline 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.

And now that they’ve agreed, in 2011, the limits of each States off-shore jurisdiction around this island “to facilitate the development of offshore renewable energy installations”… [Without prejudice to the negotiation of territorial sea boundaries! – Ed]  Indeed.