The Economic and Social Research Institute has published an economic policy review on sourcing electricity needs from wind, and building and maintaining the transmission network to accommodate this.

Ireland has a 2020 target of achieving 40% of its electricity from renewable sources. One of the report's authors, Professor John FitzGerald, told RTE radio he thought the market would deliver this amount of wind.

He said that if oil and gas prices were medium to high, this would end up saving consumers money, while if they were low, it will cost us 'a bit'.

The report also says we need more wires to ensure that the wind power can get to homes and businesses, and also to ensure that it can be exported to countries such as Britain and France. Otherwise, the ESRI says, we will have surplus wind which we will not be able to export.

Professor FitzGerald believes the State, through EirGrid, will have to deliver this infrastructure, as it would not be profitable for individual companies to invest in the socially desirable amount of infrastructure needed.

The ESRI says there should not be subsidies for offshore wind and tidal or wave energy, as we will have enough onshore wind energy as we can handle. Professor FitzGerald adds, however, that it is worthwhile spending money on research on areas such as tidal or wave power, but this should be done through research budgets and the costs should not be borne by consumers through guarantees.

Offshore 'critical', says industry body

The National Offshore Wind Association of Ireland responded by saying offshore wind power was 'critical' to achieving renewable energy targets.

NOWA said there was 'increasing concern' that planning constraints, land owner consent, grid connection and financing difficulties would make it impossible to develop the 6000 megawatts (mw) onshore wind farms needed to meet Ireland's target.

'To achieve our 2020 target, the 800mw of offshore currently agreed with the CER will definitely be required. This figure may even be somewhat higher,' the organisation said.

It claimed one offshore wind farm in Ireland could deliver 1000mw, while to achieve this on land would require 'a substantial number' of planning applications.