EMPower agrees €160m Irish wind farm deal linked to New Zealand pensions

Seven wind farms are in line for funding

Fearghal O'Connor

Irish wind-energy developer EMPower and a New Zealand-based alternative-asset manager are to pump as much as €160m into seven green field wind farms in the south-west of Ireland.

Dublin-based EMPower, which has 1,000 megawatts of wind projects under development in Africa and north-west Europe, has seven Irish sites at varying stages of the permitting process.

It has agreed a new 50-50 partnership with Morrison & Co, which is backed by a number of major Australian and New Zealand pension funds, to develop the seven wind farms.

"Initially, we have jointly made an investment of €10m into development equity and that will translate into a jointly-funded construction equity investment of somewhere between €100m and €150m between 2023 and 2026," said EMPower chief executive Diarmuid Twomey.

The exact amount will depend on how each of the seven sites fares in the planning and regulatory process. The partnership ultimately aims to jointly develop a 300-megawatt portfolio of green field wind farm sites in Ireland. About half of that total was in reality likely to reach the construction phase under the current funding arrangements due to attrition in the planning process, he said.

"Everything is up and running in terms of wind measurement and grid studies, as well as environmental assessments," Twomey added.

EMPower had until recently largely focused on overseas projects, but that has changed in the past 18 months.

"Ireland is an attractive market again. The big reason for us to refocus is the reform that has taken place in the grid application process. The second reason is the Government's Climate Action Plan, which talks about trebling installed capacity for renewable energy between 2020 and 2030."

The industry in Ireland had suffered due to stagnation around regulatory issues in the past, he said. But the new Irish Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) - which will provide State subsidies to clean energy projects - has created renewed interest. Access to the subsidy scheme will be decided by competitive auctions between developers of renewable projects.

"Morrison is one of a huge number of foreign funds looking to find a way into the market to participate in the RESS auctions. The right noises are coming out of Government but I won't count chickens because it still needs to be proven yet."

In total, Morrison has put together a €220m funding facility for renewable projects in the European market that it announced last week.

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