The governments of Ireland and the UK are embarking on legislation to create a single energy market for the whole island of Ireland. Noel Dempsey, Ireland's Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, is to publish an energy bill in early April. "We are providing a legal basis for the energy regulator to engage in the development of an all-island energy market," he says. The "key milestone" for a single electricity market, north and south, is July 1, 2007, adds Dempsey. But more importantly for renewables, the bill also paves the way for an electricity interconnector between Ireland and mainland Britain. Strengthening Ireland's links with the larger UK system will help maintain secure supplies as increasing levels of variable wind power production are fed into the network, says Paddy Teahon from the Irish Wind Energy Association. "It will also allow electricity from wind to be exported from Ireland," he adds. Meantime, the UK government has already put a bill before parliament to make way for a single electricity market for all of Ireland. The Northern Ireland bill also contains provisions to allow Northern Ireland's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to offer support for renewable energy projects out of a £59 million Environment and Renewable Energy Fund. This will focus on grants for renewable energy installations for householders, but will also fund a study into grid improvements to maximise renewable energy penetration. According to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain, the fund will leverage some £300 million in additional private sector investment in the province's renewables infrastructure.
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