A subsea electricity grid linking Scotland and Ireland has the potential to deliver “huge” rewards, says Finance Secretary John Swinney.
His claim follows the publication of a study which concluded that a grid linking Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland was “viable and competitive”.
The report was released as ministers from the three countries met to discuss the proposal in Glasgow yesterday.
The EU-funded Irish-Scottish Links on Energy Study (Isles) found that the development of a connected transmission network within the decade would help drive growth in the renewable energy sector, generating jobs and revenue.
The study concluded that the aim of generating 6.2GW by 2020 was “ambitious but achievable”. It said there were no technological barriers or “adverse environmental constraints”.
Mr Swinney said: “Scotland has around a quarter of the continent’s wind and tidal resource and as much as a tenth of its potential wave power.
“This project paves the way to allow us to harvest that potential, further develop our export capability and bring in revenues to Scotland.
“This project has EU-wide significance.
“It shows Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland are leading the debate on how to deliver our offshore energy networks and we will now take these findings to both Westminster and Brussels.
“Connecting our transmissions networks is a challenging endeavour, but the rewards will be huge. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.”
Catherine Birkbeck, grid and markets policy manager with industry body Scottish Renewables, said the subsea grid would complement current work such as the upgrade of the Beauly-Denny transmission line and the proposed subsea cable between Hunterstson, in Ayrshire, and Deeside in north Wales.
She said: “The Isles project could take us another step closer to being able to access massive export markets across the UK and Ireland, ensuring an economic legacy that will benefit communities across the country and could potentially create thousands of new jobs in renewable energy development, generation and manufacturing, particularly for offshore wind.”
Northern Ireland Energy Minister Arlene Foster said: “I see access to diversified sources of reliable and renewable energy as a core building block for sustainable economic growth. The Isles concept study presents us with a realistic picture of an energy future where the regional wind, wave and tidal energy resources located far off our coasts are harnessed and used for our mutual good. This will not happen quickly or easily.”
She said governments need to work with the energy sector to make investment more attractive without imposing “undue costs” on the customer.