We Don’t Need EirGrid

The current proliferation of wind farms in Ireland is not necessary for domestic consumption. This startling fact was conclusively proven by Pat Swords, an Irish chemical engineer, in a rousing presentation on Sunday evening in Knockanore, Waterford to various community groups opposing EirGrid.

EirGrid is the state-owned company intent on building pylons across the Irish countryside, to support cables that will link wind farms to the national grid.

Pat laid out facts and figures enough to shock the most ardent Fine Gael supporter and shame those supporting Fianna Fail.

In 2009 John Gormley of the Green Party, the then Minister of the Environment in the Fianna Fail / Green Party coalition government, announced that Ireland would strive to ensure that 40% of electricity consumed would be from renewable sources by 2020. This target of 40% exceeded considerably both the EU target of 20% and the UK’s target of 15%. Bear in mind that these targets involve all forms of renewable energy, not just wind.

What was startling was the complete lack of supporting research to justify this ambitious figure, apparently plucked out of the ether. Since then, Irish electricity consumption has gone down and we are currently consuming the same amount of electricity as we did in 2005. With increasing power-saving measures, for example the drive to properly insulate residential dwellings, this consumption is likely to decrease even further. Our current grid and power supply is good for at least another ten years.

Currently, Ireland has 1,700 MW of installed capacity on our grid and has called for 7,145 MW in the NREAP. As the wind is an erratic source of power, the grid is kept stable by the burning of conventional fossil fuels. Ironically, this means that the wind farms have caused an increase in CO2 emissions, underlining the lie that they are ‘green’.

Once 2,000 MW have been installed, Ireland will have long gone past the point at which the wind input would be beneficial, given the increase in the fossil-fuel backup and the instability it would cause on the grid with its fluctuations in transmitted power. That instability is very dangerous, putting a new spin on Minister’s Rabbitte’s warning of ‘lights out’. This instability is not new knowledge: As early as February 2004 the ESB itself, in a report, “Impact of Wind Power Generation in Ireland on the Operation of Conventional Plant and the Economic Implications” warned that: “The adverse effect of wind on thermal plant increases as the wind energy penetration rises. Plant operates less efficiently and with increasing volatility.”

In addition, if that does not sound scary enough, to put this in the context of the current financial crisis, the Irish Academy of Engineers estimates that since 2000, some €8 billion in total has been invested on supply-side projects, while approximately only €1 billion has been invested on demand-side improvements. We cannot install the next phase (Gate 3) projects without completing Grid 25, which is of fundamental importance to the wind-farm owners as they need to be connected to the grid. According to EirGrid’s own press releases, this is another billion euro project.

The Irish consumer pays for this subsidised wind input, inefficient power station operation, and new grid connections.  At the bottom of your ESB account there is a charge for your ‘PSO levy’. On an average ESB annual bill of €1200.00 you currently pay €3.57 + Vat @ 13.5% = €4.05 per month, or €48.60 per year, or 4% of your bill.

Why is Ireland doing this? To make some people very rich, apparently. The PSO Levy that you pay goes into something called the Subsidies, Curtailments and Constraints payments. From the 1st October 2012 to 30th September 2013 this payment was approximately €196 million. At the moment there are approximately 1100 to 1200 Turbines in Ireland. This equates to a payment of €178k / €163k per Turbine (€170k mean). Nice money if you can get it. No wonder the investors are lining up to build wind farms all over the country.

What does it mean for the future? Well, if the current Grid 25 plan is completed, there will be over 3000 wind turbines and 2000 km of cables and pylons criss-crossed across the entire country, costing the taxpayer billions of euros, generating power we don’t need and which will make our system dangerously volatile, in order to export power to England despite them saying they don’t need it, so that huge profits can be made by the owners of the private wind farms.

Sounds like a plan.

About Neil van Dokkum

Neil van Dokkum (B. SocSc; LLB; LLM; PGC Con.Lit) Neil is a law lecturer and has been so since arriving in Ireland from South Africa in 2002. Prior to that Neil worked in a leading firm of solicitors from 1987-1992, before being admitted as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa (a barrister) in 1992. He published three books in South Africa on employment law and unfair dismissal, as well as being published in numerous national and international peer-reviewed journals. Neil currently specialises in employment law, medical negligence law, family law and child protection law. He dabbles in EU law (procurement and energy). Neil retired from practice in 2002 to take up a full-time lecturing post. He has published three books since then, “Nursing Law for Irish Students (2005); “Evidence” (2007); and “Nursing Law for Students in Ireland” (2011). He is an accredited and practising mediator and is busy writing a book, with Dr Sinead Conneely, on Mediation in Ireland. His current interest is Ireland’s energy policy and its impact on the people and the environment. He is also researching the area of disability as a politico-economic construct. Neil is very happily married to Fiona, and they have two sons, Rory and Ian.
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