Tributes poured in over the weekend to Eddie O’Connor, the Irish green energy entrepreneur and Mainstream Renewable Power founder who has died aged 76.
O’Connor helped develop Ireland’s first wind farm in the early 1990s and went on to found first Airtricity and later Mainstream, driving the latter to become one of the global pioneers of wind and solar development before its sale to Norway’s Aker in 2021.
O’Connor – who featured regularly in Recharge as a contributor and interviewee – was also a tireless champion of a European supergrid, recognising years before many others – and well before the Ukraine invasion turned the focus on energy independence – how ‘meshed’ cross-border interconnection based on renewables was crucial to the continent’s green ambitions.
“By 2050, all but the nuclear stations currently under construction will have to be replaced, even if there were to be no renewables. A renewable solution means that there will be no future costs for fuel, no CO2 emissions, and no balance of payments deficits arising from energy imports.
“Geopolitically we are rendered independent of oil exporting countries,” he wrote in Recharge in 2018.
O’Connor also spotted early the danger of plunging power prices to the renewable supply chain.
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“The industry has to be more profitable than the alternatives, and currently we’re not,” he said. “Prices have gone too low. The whole of the industry right now is on its knees, the whole of the supply industry. The average profitability in the wind turbine industry is about zero.”
Irish environment minister Eamon Ryan said: “So saddened to hear of the death of Eddie O’Connor. He was a visionary and pioneer of the renewable energy industry here and across the wider world. His legacy will include all the work he did promoting a European supergrid.”
Adam Bruce, formerly global head of corporate affairs at Mainstream who worked with O’Connor for many years, said he “was a giant among men. The world of renewable energy has a large hole in it today. He was my boss, my mentor and a friend, and I shall miss him very much indeed”.