While a number of players in the all-island energy market, including a number of the State energy companies are currently engaged in planning, developing and implementing a variety of capital projects, there are no capital investment plans being directly prepared between the Irish Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Scottish Executive in the energy sector.
However, positive inter-governmental engagement and cooperation on energy matters at a regional level continues to operate on a very active level, particularly in the area of marine and ocean energy.
Other areas of common interest in the energy field are being developed between Ireland and Scotland and also involve the European Commission. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland have recently completed two major projects of regional significance, which were both supported by the EU INTERREG programme. The first project, the BioMara project, examined the potential for energy from marine algae. Final reports in respect of that project are in the process of being completed.
The second project, ISLES,(Irish Scottish Links on Energy Study) was a feasibility study into how to optimally interconnect the Scottish, Northern Ireland and Irish electricity grid systems so as to facilitate the development of offshore marine renewable energy. This was a wide-ranging study with technical, economic, environmental and regulatory workstreams and its reports have value and application right across Europe.
At the recent Strategic Energy Technologies (SET) Plan conference held in May during the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU, I made an announcement confirming that the administrations of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland had decided that the collaborative process on the ISLES project would enter a further phase. Consequently, the three governments have obtained further INTERREG support to further progress the regulatory and environmental workstreams involved in the ISLES project, to be known as the ISLES II project. I look forward to seeing the results of that further study.
In relation to co-operation at European level which will assist in strengthening energy infrastructure, a Regulation on guidelines for Trans-European Energy Infrastructure came into force on 15th May this year. The Regulation contains guidelines for the identification of “Projects of Common Interest” (PCI). The PCI designation carries certain conditions and entitlements, including more streamlined planning and regulatory processes at Member State level and eligibility for CEF funding.
A number of projects with cross border impacts between Ireland and the UK have been selected by the relevant Regional Group for possible designation as Projects of Common Interest in electricity transmission, gas transmission and storage, and smart grids. These projects are important in terms of enhancing the resilience and efficiency of our energy networks, improving security of supply and facilitating the development of our renewable energy sector.
Final decisions on the possible projects will be made by Member States and the Commission later this month before legal adoption in October.