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Government launches electricity sector review

The Irish government is initiating a full-scale review of the electricity sector, with a view to breaking up dominant electricity supplier, generator and wires owner ESB. Noel Dempsey, the minister responsible for energy, is inviting tenders from Ireland and Europe to look into the existing institutional arrangements and market structures and make recommendations for change. The review is sparked, says the minister, by difficulties relating to ESB's dominance in power generation and the need to develop competition. ESB's market operation has long been seen by the wind industry as a serious barrier to speedy wind development. According to the Irish Times, which spoke to Dempsey on his recent visit to China, the minister does not favour selling the distribution or transmission arms of the company. More likely is the sale or lease of ESB's generation fleet, which includes 19 peat, hydro, coal, oil and gas plant, plus two operating wind farms, with a further 14 wind projects under development. The government review is also expected to look at renewables as well as Ireland's dependence on imported fuels -- an area where renewables score highly.

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