The government blames the postponement on delays in gaining clearance for the arrangements under EU environmental state aid rules. The Department for Public Enterprise says the deadline extension also gives developers the opportunity to evaluate any alteration that the EU may make to the AER V arrangements. To prevent the erection of national market barriers in the European Community, the European Commission (EC) vets all programs granting state aid to industry. Soft rules apply to grants with environmental aims.
AER V power purchase contracts will be awarded under a competitive tender. Up to 255 MW of contracts are up for grabs: large wind expects to take 200 MW, while 40 MW will go to small wind projects. Only projects with planning consent will be eligible to bid. Some 300 MW of wind energy already has full planning permission, though consents for a handful of projects are due to run out shortly. With the results of the competition unlikely to be announced until well into 2002, these developers may either find themselves ineligible to take part in the competition, or may have to reapply for consent.
Meanwhile, the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) has called on the government to double its 11.7% target for renewables' share of Ireland's electricity by 2010. This figure was set under the recently adopted EC directive on renewable energy. The IWEA points out that Ireland has the highest allowed rate of increase in greenhouse gas emissions in northern Europe at 13% over 1990 levels. But it adds that the country is set to hit 38% by 2010 instead of 13%. "This figure should send shock waves through government leading to an aggressive development of our renewable resources. But instead it has lobbied for and has been granted a contribution to EU clean energy targets that is less than the EU average," says IWEA.
Renewable energy currently accounts for 2% of Ireland's electricity, but could meet 30% of its requirements, claims IWEA. If the government were to double its 11.7% target this would merely bring Ireland in line with Denmark, Finland, Portugal and Austria, it says. "To do less is to acknowledge that we are happy to be the dirty man of Europe."