Calling for a fixed price and quotas

A "feed-in" style renewable energy tariff alongside a separate system of quotas for the proportion of renewable energy in the supply mix are being advocated by the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) as its preferred system of support.

In its new policy, launched in October, IWEA calls for the competitive bidding process in previous Alternative Energy Requirements (AERs) to be ditched after AER6 in favour of a new mechanism similar to the German and French systems. While AER has delivered cheap wind power, it has failed to deliver the number of megawatts sought by government.

Under the IWEA proposals, a long term power purchase agreement (PPA) should be available to all renewable generators, offering relatively high prices per kilowatt hour for the first five years to allow all sites to be viable. Renewable generators should be allowed to opt out of their PPAs.

In addition, IWEA calls for a renewables quota on electricity suppliers, rising annually to keep track with necessary progression towards Ireland's EU and Kyoto targets for cutting climate change emissions. In the longer term, IWEA supports moving towards a pan European market for trade in green power credits (green certificates).

Meantime, AER6 should be implemented as soon as possible, the policy document states, and the price paid to generators under AER6 contracts should be set at the full consumer price index -- instead of the contentious 25% indexation as for AER5 contracts.

IWEA also urges the government to adopt new ambitious wind energy targets. It proposes 7% of the country's electricity to come from wind by 2005, 20% by 2010 and 50% by 2020. The role of EirGrid -- the new state transmission system operator -- will be crucial in helping wind reach these levels of penetration. It should adopt reliable forecasting of wind energy availability, provide for "constraining off" of wind farms at times of weak grid conditions, and install a high capacity electricity link with Britain, says the policy document.

While IWEA supports offshore wind, it is concerned that the government's plans for a demonstration offshore project may mean a delay in awarding grant aids for other offshore projects. "Any government incentive to promote the development of the offshore resource should be open to all those holding foreshore licences," states the document. It adds that planning authorities should not use the significant offshore resource as an excuse to look upon onshore wind farms less favourably.

IWEA also calls for more tax incentives to encourage investment in renewable energy projects.