Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny, T.D., at the launch of the East-West Interconnector

 

Check Against Delivery

Thursday 20 September 2012

Introduction
Minister Rabbitte,
Secretary of State Davey,
Commissioner Oettinger,
Ladies and Gentleman.

I am delighted to be here in Batterstown at the official opening of the East-West Interconnector.

This is a historic day for the Irish energy market.

For the first time the Republic of Ireland will have a direct electricity connection to our neighbour and friend, Great Britain.

Ireland being a peripheral energy market makes this project a hugely significant one for us, for these islands and for Europe as a whole.

I recently attended the 85th anniversary of the Ardnacrusha Power Station.

Many of you were there you will appreciate the similarity of moment between both projects.

Each groundbreaking, each forward looking.

And both delivered at crucial junctures when we need and needed to rebuild Ireland's economic strength.

British/Irish Relationship
I am particularly gratified that today reflects ever-deepening ties with our neighbouring island.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister and I reflected that the relationship between our two countries has never been stronger or more settled, has never been more important.

As nations, we connect now as never before.

Through business, politics, culture and sport, travel and technology, and of course that vital business of family friends.

Today, is one more practical expression of that close relationship this key piece of infrastructure that enables direct electricity-trading between Ireland and Great Britain.

This is an excellent day for electricity consumers on both islands.

Our shared achievement in 2007, implementing the all-Ireland Single Electricity Market, is a considerable one.

Our two administrations are working to develop further interconnectivity North-South and East-West, to facilitate security of supply and enhanced competition.

Under the auspices of the British Irish Council both Governments are firmly committed to developing the renewable-energy resources of these islands, and to developing cross-border trade in renewable energy across our jurisdictions.

We are also assessing in this context, how best we can cooperate to better plan and build our future, energy infrastructure.

In all of this, we have a new economic relationship between our countries in terms of energy.

European Energy Integration
The practical and strategic benefits for both islands, peoples, are clear.

This level of economic co-operation is connected to the wider European goal of continent-wide energy co-operation.

The EU drove this Interconnector project onwards in a major way, when it decided to provide a sizeable grant under the European Energy Programme for Recovery in 2010.

We are grateful for this funding support.

And indeed for the support of the other funders including the European Investment Bank.

This new interconnector shows our commitment to European energy-market integration,

It shows too our ability to deliver projects to achieve that integration - on time and on budget.

Ireland looks forward to working on an ongoing basis with our European partners on integration of the electricity market.

And equally on the provision of the necessary infrastructure, to ensure Europe and all its peoples, has a competitive, secure and sustainable energy supply.

Commissioner - I know you are busy negotiating the energy-infrastructure package with all 27 Member States.

I can assure you, that Ireland stands ready to assist with the finalisation of the package in every way possible, particularly during our Presidency.

Together with our neighbours we can also highlight for you the opportunity in Ireland for good European-scale projects that can deliver on the aims of the package, particularly in market integration and renewable energy.

 

Security of Supply
The interconnector underpins security of electricity supply, so vital for an island economy.

With Britain, we share a long-term challenge to our prosperity - that of the need for secure, competitive, sustainable sources of energy.

One of the building blocks for a more secure and competitive energy supply is investment in new energy infrastructure.

Consequently, my Government published a Policy Statement reaffirming the need for the development and renewal of our energy infrastructure that will benefit all of Ireland.

Electricity and gas demand, for business and for households, must be met safely and securely on a continuous basis 365 days a year.

Our ability to attract and retain Foreign Direct Investment and sustain Irish enterprise depends on guaranteeing energy supply at competitive cost at all times.

Investment in the national networks will support regional development, create jobs and growth, as well as realising the economic potential of Ireland's own, renewable-energy resources.

Economy
This focus on energy development is a central part of our economic recovery.

This Government has been working tirelessly to return the country to long-term growth by focussing again on becoming a competitive, export-led economy.

While not there yet.... we are making solid progress.

After three, successive years of contraction the economy returned to growth last year with GDP increasing by 1.4%.

This recovery is being driven by exports which are now well in excess of pre-crisis levels.

The Exchequer returns showed that our 2012 tax-take continues to grow.

We are on track to meet our 2012 deficit target.

Through our Action Plan on Jobs we are working to implement over 270 measures this year to boost national competitiveness, keep business costs down, and help Irish SMEs break into new markets.

In the coming weeks and months we will continue to work to secure agreement, internationally, on aspects of Ireland's bank debt, as was set out during the June European Council.

Concluding Remarks
Finally, I pay tribute today to the huge collective endeavour by all involved in this achievement.

To the EirGrid team in delivering the project on time, in budget and to the highest, technical and safety standards.

I thank Dermot as outgoing Chief Executive and wish him well in his upcoming retirement. I also thank the project manager, John Fitzgerald, of EirGrid.

I also wish to recognise work by others, including CER, ESB Networks and ABB, the international engineering company which designed, manufactured and installed the interconnector, and all the other contractors involved.

You were part of something special.

This project marks the start of a new chapter in Irish, British and European energy co-operation and development.

Thanks to the work of everyone here I'm excited about the future possibilities for Irish and European energy.

It shows what we can achieve for our countries and our peoples, when we work hard and well together.

Secure and happy that we do so not in the shadow but in the shelter of each other.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

ENDS.

Government Press Office
Press.office@taoiseach.gov.ie
Ph 01 6194098