UK takes step toward buying renewable energy from Ireland

Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:31am EST

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LONDON Jan 24 (Reuters) - Ireland may start exporting excess green electricity, mostly wind power, to Britain in a few years after the governments sign a contract on Thursday to study the potential of cross-border renewable energy trading.

The countries' energy ministers are to sign a memorandum of understanding in Dublin, agreeing to assess the costs and benefits of trading renewable energy, to look at potential projects and to consider sharing renewable energy statistics.

"Making the most of the natural renewable resource available around our islands could benefit the economies of both countries," British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey said in a statement.

Britain has an ambitious target to generate 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Importing excess green power from Ireland could help it meet that goal.

Ministers held preliminary discussions about the project in June last year, and companies have since announced plans to build wind farms and power networks to export green electricity to Britain.

One such project is a 7 billion pound ($11.1 billion) scheme to build 500 to 700 wind turbines in the Midlands of Ireland to generate power for export to Britain.

The countries' plan to trade renewable power is subject to the creation of an inter-governmental agreement, which Irish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pat Rabbitte said could be signed in a year's time.

EU rules stipulate that each member state has its own legally binding renewable energy target but that, after signing inter-governmental agreements, nations can import green electricity to meet their targets.

Britain will soon publish a separate study about its potential to trade renewable energy with its neighbours, a spokesman for the UK energy ministry said.

Britain's electricity market has two cable connections to Ireland as well as interconnectors to France and the Netherlands, while it and is studying building links to Norway, Denmark and Belgium. ($1 = 0.6313 British pounds) (Reporting by Karolin Schaps; editing by Jane Baird)

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