Scope for wind to play greater role

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The Irish government will have to double its targets for wind energy if it is to meet increased electricity demand and curtail growing carbon dioxide emissions, says the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA). At this month's European Wind Energy Conference in Dublin, Paul Dowling of the IWEA is expected to call on the government to increase its targets for wind energy from around 7.5% of total installed capacity by 2010 (470 MW) up to 15% (around 1000 MW). This would be 10% of generating output.

Wind energy already forms a major plank of the government's strategy for increasing renewable energy generation. No other technology comes near its share of renewable energy contracts already awarded or yet to come. In a country with just over 4000 MW of total installed generation on its system, wind currently provides 0.6% of total capacity. And in early 1998, when seven new wind farms come on line, wind's share will increase to 60.5 MW -- or 1.5% of Ireland's total. On top of this, according to government policy wind capacity will rise by 30 MW each year over the next 13 years.

Yet energy use in Ireland is also forecast to increase dramatically with the rise in Irish living standards. The Economic and Social Research Institute predicts carbon dioxide levels could rise by up to 82.5% from 1990 to 2010. The IWEA claims that to slow down the growth in CO2 emissions, the country will need an aggressive policy to expand renewables' share of the energy market. The burden of delivering this will fall on the electricity sector. The association believes renewables could provide around 15% of electricity output by 2010.

Wind is the technology best placed to meet the bulk of the increased capacity needed, it claims. To help Ireland's wind industry achieve the target, the IWEA pledges to work towards 90% levels of public support for wind. It calls for customers to be able to choose wind to supply their needs and favours linking the price of wind generated electricity to the consumer price. IWEA would like to see local services and products providing at least half of all wind projects' lifetime costs, and also more Irish equity participation in wind energy developments.

But Dowling believes the key to achieving the 1000 MW target will be increased co-operation between the wind industry and traditional players in the energy market. The only way for utilities to reconcile increased consumer demand with growing environmental concerns is to promote renewable energy, he says. He warns that failure to do this could result in external quotas and penalties.

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