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Off-shore electricity grid project moves into new phase

Friday, 8 January 2010

Efforts to build an off-shore electricity transmission network linking Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland have taken an important step forward.

The RPS Group has been awarded the contract to examine the feasibility of building an off-shore grid in the Irish Sea.

The Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment is working with its government counterparts in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland on a technical feasibility study for a regional off-shore marine electricity grid system. This could link off-shore renewable energy sites to exploit wind, wave and tidal resources in the Irish Sea and Atlantic coastal areas.

The work is seen as a key part in developing thinking on the EU's concept of a European-wide Super Grid for electricity interconnection. The two-year study is due to finish by the end of 2011.

Energy Minister Arlene Foster said: “The appointment of RPS to undertake this innovative study demonstrates the commitment that Northern Ireland attaches to working at home and with its neighbours to fully develop the potential for renewable energy in and around our shores.

“This project will inform the partners’ decisions as well as those of the wider energy sector on the costs and benefits of future investment in off-shore renewables infrastructure.

“The study will make an important contribution to the European Union’s proposal for a European Super Grid for electricity to enhance security of supply. I welcome the contribution to funding this £1.6million project through the EU’s INTERREG Cross Border Programme.”

Scotland’s Energy Minister Jim Mather said: “The ISLES study will allow us to explore issues around an offshore transmission network in the Irish Sea and help make the case for commercial investment. This co-operation with Northern Ireland and Ireland is another step in our approach to strategic energy issues. Indeed our close working relationship with the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive is also being further deepened through the grid work stream of the British Irish Council, and we are developing joint working in a number of other areas.”

Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan said: “I very much welcome the commencement of this study which will help pave the way for the development of our very significant offshore natural resources. Ireland has a sea area that is around 10 times the size of its land area. Our countries location at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean ensures we share some of the best wind and wave resources in Europe. By working in partnership with each other, we can utilise these resources to generate carbon free renewable electricity to meet our future energy requirements.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Irish Scottish Links on Energy Study (ISLES) is a joint project between the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland) the Scottish Government, and the Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources (Ireland). The Scottish Government acts as lead partner.
  2. The project will examine the feasibility and costs and benefits of the commercial construction of an off-shore electricity transmission network linking potential offshore sites for the generation of renewable energy in the coastal waters of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Western Scotland. The feasibility study will develop a business case for the construction of such a grid and will examine the following aspects: - technology and infrastructure; environment and planning; regulatory and finance; and construction and deployment. The study will also involve close co-operation with the energy industry and other stakeholders involved in grid transmission systems and renewable energy.
  3. The project is part funded by the European Union through the INTERREG IVA Cross Border Programme for Northern Ireland, the Border Counties of Ireland and Western Scotland. Support is £1,466,667 towards a total project cost of £1,600,000 with partners contributing the additional funds.
  4. The RPS Group was appointed after a competitive tender exercise. RPS is an international consultancy firm that provides advice on the development of energy and other natural resources and infrastructure and the management of the environment and health and safety of people.
  5. For media enquiries, please contact DETI Press Office on 028 9052 9297. Out of office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.