Governor Brian Schweitzer, met this morning with Pat Rabbitte TD, the Energy Minister of Ireland, to exchange views on strategies to help ensure that the deep reserves of renewable energy held by both Ireland and Montana are fully realized.
Commenting after their meeting, Governor Schweitzer said:
"Ireland and Montana share many opportunities and challenges, particularly in energy policy. We each have globally significant reserves of renewable power, mostly in the form of wind energy, and common challenges around how to ensure these reserves are captured and put to good use in generating economic benefits for our peoples, and contribute to reduced green house gas emissions from fossil fuels."
"Also, Ireland and Montana each have small domestic power markets in the midst of much greater regional markets. For Ireland, this includes Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and from there extending to a regional European mainland market which will initially include France. For Montana, we have significant markets to the Pacific North West, Oregon, Washington and California. This means that energy export is a clear goal for both States which will require greater integration and interconnection with and into regional energy markets,"
Pat Rabbitte TD, Ireland's Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources said: "A new energy age is evolving rapidly. With over 1600 MW of wind energy capacity already connected to the Irish Grid, there have been occasions over the last 12 months when 50 percent of electricity demand on in Ireland has been met from renewable energy sources. This creates its own challenges and requires that we look to ways we can ensure that we fully utilize these renewable power reserves and tackle intermittency of wind. Export will ultimately be a key part of the equation. Grid operators, including Ireland's national transmission operator, Eirgrid, will be working to put in place all the management tools, including energy storage in order to manage the renewable power available to them."
Historic and business linkages between Ireland and Montana remain strong. One of Ireland's leading global developers of renewable power and energy storage projects, Gaelectric, is helping to capture the renewable power reserves of Montana with a pipeline of over 1900 MW of wind energy projects over 7 locations across the state. Since opening its office in Great Falls in 2006, Gaelectric has worked closely with the State authorities and system operators in the State to secure Montana's wind power resource which has one of the lowest levelized costs of generation and a capacity and availability pattern that complements other renewable power sources, including hydro.
Governor Schweitzer and Minister Rabbitte have agreed to maintain contact on the evolution of their respective energy policies and share common learnings and opportunities on renewable energy as well as energy efficiency.
Governor Schweitzer and the First Lady, Mrs. Nancy Schweitzer, are visiting Ireland to attend an number of events, including the annual commemorations of Thomas Francis Meagher, one of the first Territorial Governors of Montana and the first person to use the Irish Tricolor flag. Meagher, who was a great Irish patriot and American, hailed from County Waterford. Governor Schweitzer and the First Lady will be attending a number of commemorative events next week in Waterford City.