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Wind industry warns over delays as Ireland plans first auction

Irish government plans debut round in mid-2020 as sector body says installation gap looms

Ireland fired the starting pistol on its long-awaited renewables auction programme, as the nation’s wind industry warned against any delays for a sector that is already facing an 18-month installation gap.

The country plans to hold its first renewable energy auction next June for projects to be online by the end of 2022, which could boost its wind power base by 30%. The first auction, scheduled for June 2020, will deliver up to 3,000GWh into the Irish power system, said climate action and environment minister Richard Bruton.

The auction under Ireland’s new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is the first of a series of annual rounds under the country’s plan to hit a 70% renewable energy share by 2030. Its renewables sector had initially hoped to see the debut round underway last year.

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Ireland had about 3.6GW of wind in place by the end of 2018 and may approach 4GW once 2019 is over. But installations are facing a hiatus as final projects are installed under the former support regime, which lapses at the end of this year, warned Irish Wind Energy Association CEO David Connolly.

“Ireland is already far behind on cutting our CO2 emissions and we are looking at a gap of 18 months between the completion of the last wind farms under the old REFIT support scheme and the connection of new projects under the RESS.

“Anything the government can do to get RESS up and running more quickly will save time, money and CO2 emissions.”

Successful projects will receive a guaranteed price for their power for between 14 and 16.5 years under a system similar to the UK’s contract-for-difference (CfD) mechanism.

RESS places heavy emphasis on local payback and involvement. Successful projects will have to pay €2/MWh ($2.20/MWh) annually to a community fund, and a chunk of the available deals are set aside for community-led developments.

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Solar will account for about 10% of the auction award, said the government.

The first round, which kicks off with a consultation on draft terms in December, is likely to be dominated by onshore wind, but a swelling pipeline of large offshore wind projects are likely to be contenders from next year onwards, said industry commentators.

Irish state utility ESB has made its offshore ambitions clear, with major agreements announced in the sector in Ireland itself and in the UK in recent weeks.

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