Last year, the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Mr. Ed Davey, MP, and I signed a memorandum of understanding on energy co-operation. The memorandum demonstrated our shared interest in developing the opportunity to export green electricity from Ireland to Britain. An agreed programme of work was put in place, with work-streams across several areas. A key objective was to realise the potential for investment, job creation and growth. The amount of energy to be procured by the United Kingdom and the mechanisms for sharing the resultant economic benefits, including an appropriate return to the Exchequer, were among the matters to be addressed ahead of signing any intergovernmental agreement.
Economic analysis conducted by my officials, with significant inputs from the ESRI and NewERA, indicates that under agreed policy and regulatory conditions, renewable energy trading can deliver significant economic benefits to Ireland and the United Kingdom and would also be attractive to commercial investors and developers. However, progressing to an intergovernmental agreement on renewable energy trading would require any agreement to be designed in a manner that would work for both countries. In that regard, the UK side is not yet in a position to take certain key decisions on the quantity of energy to be procured, the regulatory treatment of Irish assets, the structure of subsidies to Irish developers and the resultant financial flows.
Following further discussions since the summit between the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Cameron in early March, I am confirmed in the view that given the economic, policy and regulatory complexities involved and the outstanding decisions to be taken by the United Kingdom, delivery by 2020 of an intergovernmental agreement to facilitate energy export is not now a realistic proposition. While it has not been possible at this time to conclude an agreement, in the context of a European internal energy market, greater trade in energy between Britain and Ireland is inevitable in the post-2020 scenario. At national level, of course, the strong focus on our 2020 commitments is undiminished and consideration is being given to building on these commitments as we look towards 2030.