The Irish Wind Power Nightmare ‘An Expensive Mess’

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Wind power in Ireland: messy and expensive …


As the wheels fall off the great wind power fraud around the Globe, we thought we’d head back to the future, with this prescient piece from the Emerald Isle from last year.

Irish Energy Policy: An Expensive Mess
The Sunday Times (Irish edition)
Cormac Lucey
16 November 2014

In recent weeks political debate has been fixated on water charges. The political party most closely associated with the need for water charges, as a matter of principle, has been the Green Party. In fairness to it and to its leader, Eamon Ryan, the party has continued to make the case for water charges even in the face of mounting public hostility to the idea and its botched implementation. Another core Green Party policy has been a massive shift in Ireland’s energy policy away from use of fossil fuels towards wind energy. As Energy Minister, between 2007 and 2011, the current Green Party leader Eamon Ryan was instrumental in setting the target that 40% of our electricity supply should come from renewable sources by 2020. How well is this energy policy working out?

The electricity supply target is an EU goal as part of its “Global Leadership” policy on climate change. The EU hoped that, by providing a political lead on this question, it would induce others to follow. But that hope was in vain. The rest of the world has refused to follow. At the COP 15 summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the EU assumed that other countries would follow its lead. But when the final deal was done the US, China and South Africa (representing the developing world) effectively presented the EU with a fait accompli.

This week’s “best efforts” deal between China and the USA is of symbolic importance but changes little in reality: China has agreed that its emissions will peak in 2030, which is when its emissions would probably have peaked anyway; President Obama’s commitments are of limited value unless backed by the Republican-controlled US Congress.

With the USA refusing to ratify the Kyoto Treaty (an international treaty which extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and commits signing parties to reduce greenhouse gases emissions), the EU proceeded unilaterally with its strategy to turn towards alternative energy sources: self-congratulation rather than efficacy was to be the basis of public policy.

The result has been a mess. Energy prices in the EU have risen much more sharply than elsewhere. There has been an acceleration in the relocation of heavy industry out of Europe. This has indeed reduced the production of Green House Gasses (GHGs) in Europe. But that has been achieved by an increase in the emission of GHGs elsewhere in the world. The EU has effectively outsourced the production of GHGs to other countries, especially China.

EU energy policy has resulted in the mothballing of 50,000MW of gas fired plant in Europe as utilities increased the use of renewable and coal. This has reduced the value of Europe’s top twenty energy utilities by €500 billion since 2007, generating losses for investors including pension funds as well as threatening further investment in the EU energy sector.

In other countries, this questionable policy has triggered a fundamental rethink. Having made huge investments in renewable energy, especially solar power, Germany and Spain are now reconsidering this approach. In the UK the focus has swung to reducing energy prices by reducing subsidies and promoting economically efficient energy production, led by modern gas fired power plants.

In Ireland, there is little sign of any rethink. This is strange as the costs of current energy policy are enormous and can be seen in the trend of rising Irish electricity prices. According to the Irish Academy of Engineering (IAE) Ireland’s electricity and gas prices rose between 5% and 15% more than the EU-28 average between 2010 and 2013; household electricity prices have increased by approximately 30% in the last 3 years; household electricity prices in the Republic are 33% higher than in the UK; and industrial electricity prices are 12% higher than the UK and the EU-28 average.

A first rate public policy disaster is unfolding but the general public appears not to have noticed. The situation facing Ireland on gas prices displays a similar negative trend: in 2009 industrial gas prices were 12% below the EU-28 average – they are now 18% above the EU-28 average; household gas prices are 23% above the UK; before VAT is taken into account, industrial gas prices are about 20% higher than the UK and 8% above the EU-28 average. Even the government’s own Green Paper concedes that “since 2007 energy prices in Ireland have risen by 29% in real terms compared with an average rise of 20% in OECD countries”.

Part of the problem facing the Irish energy sector is that, in recent years, electricity consumption dropped by 8% while electricity generating capacity grew by over 30%. The additional capacity includes wind power, gas fired plants and new interconnection to the U.K. The estimated cost of adding this additional capacity and the associated networks since 2007 is of the order of €5 billion.Allowing for normal operating margins, there is now 2,000 megawatt of surplus generating capacity in the Republic of Ireland.

Based on current Irish energy policies another 3,000 megawatt of generating capacity (mainly wind power) will be added to the system. The investment requirement for this new capacity and associated major networks constructed to facilitate its connection to the grid over the next 10 years is estimated by the IAE to be in the range of €5 billion to €7 billion. This will lead to the redundancy of existing plant. Worse still, the intermittent nature of wind energy requires parallel fossil-fuel energy capacity to be available for when the wind drops. That fossil-fuel electricity generating capacity degrades more quickly when it is repeatedly turned on and off than when it can be run continuously, in the way it was originally designed to be used.

Irish power prices 2014 11 16

At his party’s conference in March this year, Green leader Eamon Ryan declared that “we need to reduce the boom and bust character of our economic model”. It is impossible to disagree with this goal. But does Mr Ryan not see the parallels between the construction of ghost estates in 2005-2007 and the development today of what may become ghost wind energy generation capacity?

The extra cost of this surplus generating capacity raises fundamental economic, competitiveness and political questions. The only basis on which this additional investment can be funded is by a set of guarantees which underwrite, or largely eliminate, the commercial risk of the developers. These include customer-subsidised guaranteed tariffs, priority access to the grid and capacity payments. They come at our expense and have been offered on our behalf by government and by the regulator (which is little more than the extended arm of government in this matter). So the bulk of the real burden of capital investment and associated subsidies will have to be carried by the electricity customers in the Republic, i.e. householders and business.

Owners of conventional generating assets (mostly Irish citizens through our ownership of the ESB and Bord Gáis) will face major devaluation of existing electricity generation capacity. It is estimated, for example, that Bord Gáis lost €300 million on the recent sale of its new gas fired power plant in Cork. The plant was only opened in 2010 and has already turned into a commercial calamity. But where is the public accounting for this disaster? The Irish governing class would prefer yet another banking inquiry (after Regling, Honohan, Wright et al) on a past disaster than face up squarely to a current one.
The Sunday Times


No wonder they’re angry.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Pat Swords says:

    For more details on the stupidity of the plans to plaster the Irish countryside with several thousand turbines and hundreds of kms of new pylons, see below:

    Even the Irish legal profession are now writing as to how it will end up in a whirlwind of legal cases: ‘In sowing the wind, how Ireland could reap the whirlwind’ – a case against Irish wind development(s)

    We have now reached the situation where even the ‘Green’ obsessed National Media has to admit that the rails are coming off:

    More accurate analysis of that issue below:

    We are most certainly not there yet, but the ‘juggernaut’ has been slowed down and there is more to come!

  2. Bravo for Ireland! “No turbines” is the way .. Vote ‘NO’ for wind turbines.

  3. “Bravo for Ireland”. Keep going strong. We are all in the
    same war. Vote down wind turbines.

  4. didyouhear says:
  5. Reblogged this on pattikellar and commented:
    An excellent overview. Sadly Ontario is in the same position as Ireland.

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