How Relevant is the Green Party?

green party

 

Nigel de Haas, who is a regular reader of, and contributor to, this blog; had been conducting a fascinating conversation with Cormac Manning, a Green Party candidate for this election, concerning the Green Party Manifesto on Energy.

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Readers are urged to read this exchange and decide for themselves whether the Green Party has a future role to play in this country. To put it bluntly: Can we every forgive Eamon Ryan for introducing the NREAP?

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Nigel de Haas:

“Dear Cormac,

As we run up into the last week before the election, 200 concerned local communities have placed a full-page advertisement in today’s Sunday Business Post. A copy of this can be viewed on-line at:

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Is it not better to subsidise local rural jobs growing biomass than subsidise imported Danish and German turbines? Ireland has a most productive climate for growing biomass so convert Moneypoint to biomass.  Let’s hit the 2020 targets 2 years early in 2018 by doing this and creating 7000 Irish rural jobs.

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The Green Party’s mantra of more and more wind turbines at the exclusion of all else is a busted flush. All it is doing is enriching avaricious developers at the expense of the domestic electricity consumer and having virtually no impact on CO2 emission reduction due to the polluting coal-fired spinning reserve.

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Combine low net emissions with job creation – convert Moneypoint, cancel turbine orders and the 2020 targets achieved. This is a win-win.  Make sure Ireland plays its part in mitigating climate change by taxing carbon emitters and subsidising biomass.

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Forget low paid yellow-pack call centres. We need sustainable, long term employment in rural areas such as this constituency so that people can plan their lives and families with a reasonable outlook.”

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Cormac Manning:

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“A chara,

Thanks for your email. I think we need to support community-owned wind, where instead of a far-off developer, the local community collectively own the wind turbines in a co-operative, make the decisions on it, and share in the benefits. We also need to support other forms of renewable energy, such as offshore wind, solar, tidal, and hydro. A key aspect to them all is that developments should be community-owned, as is the case in much of Denmark and Germany. By keeping the profits in rural communities this will bring about a huge economic boost as well as cutting our carbon emissions.

We also need to develop more energy storage facilities such as Turlough Hill to enable us to reduce the level of reserve needed. Using a broad mix of renewables and connecting abroad will also help lower the reserve needed.Biomass is an important part of our renewables mix, but it has limited capacity, considering we also need land to grow food.

If you are interested you can find more information in our manifesto, which is available at greenparty.ie/manifesto.”

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Nigel de Haas:

“A chara,

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Thank you for your response. Sadly it does not provide either my local community, or I, with any compelling reason to vote for you on Friday.  Can it be that Green Party candidates are so focused on diktat from Central Control that they cannot adapt to the realities we need to address in order to counter climate change?  What will you, as our candidate, do post-election to assuage the concerns of people in West Cork?

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I had in fact read the Green Party manifesto on energy (along with those of the other candidates) before I emailed you. From your response, you do not seem to have extended the same courtesy to me.  It is a principle of business that whilst your customers engage with you, you still have customers.  I expect that it applies to politics as well.

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However, laudable as the many manifesto aspirations are, I note that there is a distinct lack of costed reality. Current figures from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) show that Ireland has installed 1400 wind turbines to date and achieved a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions of 2.8%.   I understand from the Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources that the current floor price guaranteed by REFIT is 6.9c/kWh.

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Can the Irish economy, already one where large parts of your constituency are suffering from post-boom austerity, really stand this massive cost if we are to ramp up investment to make the meaningful reductions in CO2 emissions needed to stay within COP 21 at a time when, despite the investment in wind, Irish electricity prices are the third highest in the EU?

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You are absolutely correct that Denmark and Germany have had a huge economic gain from wind energy; they are home to four of the largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world (Vestas, Siemens, Nordex and Enercon). Far from keeping the profit in rural communities, this program is actually enriching foreign manufacturers.  Community ownership is a fig leaf that conceals the fact that the money has already been made by the time the wind farm is commissioned.

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Local small-scale biomass can co-exist quite easily with other types of farming, and provides sustainable local employment in planting, maintenance, harvesting and energy conversion. There are several profitable examples in Munster such as Grainger’s sawmill, Astellas and the Tralee Community Centre, but the word “biomass” is not even mentioned in the Green Party manifesto!

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The paragraph “introduce greater incentives for the development of advanced wood fired combined heat and power plants within Irish industry” shows no evidence of the joined-up thinking that one would hope to find in a truly green philosophy. Where is the concurrent development of the forestry to supply such “advanced wood-fired CHP” utilities?  Moneypoint can be converted to use UN-Certified biomass in under two years and ensure that Ireland meets its 2020 targets.

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Pumped storage would be wonderful; where does the Green Party propose to put it? Turlough Hill has a peak power rating of 300MW and a capacity of 6 hours at full load.  The EirGrid Dashboard (http://smartgriddashboard.eirgrid.com/ shows that Ireland is consuming 4800MW at 2.00pm today (of which wind is providing 507MW).

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This means that Turlough Hill can supply 6.25% of today’s demand for 6 hours. Logically we then require 16 Turlough Hills to supply demand for 6 hours without any other generation.  Where do you propose to site them?  Carrauntohill, Mt. Brandon, Connemara or Donegal?

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I look forward to hearing a good reason for the people of West Cork to give you their vote on Friday.”

 

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Cormac Manning:

“A chara,

It’s a pity to hear that. While unfortunately it’s true that we don’t have turbine manufacturing capability in Ireland, there is still a huge benefit to be gained by many rural communities through wind co-operatives. As well as the greenhouse gas benefits, the economic benefit of owning your own source of energy isn’t just on the manufacturing stage, there’s also the selling of the electricity – as you point out there are REFIT tariffs available. As well as the direct benefits, all our communities will benefit from not sending €6 billion out of the economy each year to import fossil fuels from abroad – we could have a significant portion of this circulate around our local economy instead.

The benefits are limited when a far-off developer owns and takes the profit from a wind farm, which is why we propose we change from our current model to a community-owned one, which would unlock more of the potential benefits. For an example of possible models, I’d be a supporter of Drumlin Wind Energy Co-op in Northern Ireland (http://www.drumlin.coop/) or Templederry in Co. Tipperary.

Like I said, I think there is a role for biomass in our energy mix. But the scale required to run Moneypoint on biomass would be enormous – what would your best estimate be of how much land would be required to provide this? And even if Moneypoint were to be transformed to biomass, we would still our other sources of energy.

As wind power (particularly onshore wind) is increasingly becoming cheaper and more competitive against other forms of energy, in the future we would hope it will no longer need such State support but I believe that day hasn’t yet come. Until then, I think it is a good investment for the State to support community-owned wind power, which will in the long run benefit us both financially and with regards to the climate.

While we might need 16 Turlough Hills to provide all of Ireland’s energy, I imagine we wouldn’t need enough pumped storage to cover 100% of our useage, using a mix of renewables such as hydro, solar, wave etc. But I take your point that we do need a lot more of them. We wouldn’t have specific locations for these, as choosing the sites would have to be done in consultation with the local community.

Our forestry policy can be found here: https://greenparty.ie/policies/forestry/

I’m afraid I’m not sure exactly what you mean when saying I didn’t extend the same courtesy to you.”

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Nigel de Haas:

“A chara

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Thank you for the time that you have taken to engage with me and set out your reasons for the people of West Cork to support you as the Green Party candidate for Cork North West on Friday. You have indeed extended me the courtesy of reading my comments to you, and I will forward this email to interested parties so that you get as wide an exposure as possible.

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I would comment as follows on the major points that you made, which I understand are entirely in line with the Green Party manifesto:

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.Community wind energy

This is viewed as the way forward by the Green Party where local communities can avail of the REFIT subsidy from the Irish electricity consumer PSO levy to circulate around the Irish economy in place of €6 billion p/a of fossil fuel energy imports. The question is, how does an internal transfer of wealth from electricity consumers to community co-operatives benefit the economy?   Is this not just moving beans around?

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Moneypoint biomass

You are absolutely correct that Moneypoint would consume huge quantities of biomass, just as at present it consumes huge quantities of coal. The reason is that Ireland consumes huge quantities of electricity, soon to increase by 50% to supply power-hungry data centres.  However, Moneypoint can be converted to use imported UN-Certified biomass in under two years and ensure that Ireland meets its 2020 targets.  We are an open market trading economy, and as such export and import commodities as a normal part of day-to-day life.

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Self-sufficiency

We are repeatedly told that decarbonisation is the raison d’être for renewable energy; self-sufficiency is a wider debate. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is self-sufficient in fossil fuel, but not in agriculture (despite their enormous wealth).  Is it any more important for Ireland to be self-sufficient in energy than for others to be self-sufficient in food production?  You can’t eat energy.

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Intermittency

As mentioned previously, simple arithmetic demonstrates that 16 Turlough Hills are needed to support average Irish electricity consumption for just 6 hours. For example, from the 23rd to 30th September 2015 , there was some very high wind output, and again at 4th till 7th October. This was interspersed with a very calm spell lasting a couple of days. After the 4th, there was a long period of poor winds lasting about 12 days.

See http://irishenergyblog.blogspot.ie/2015/10/storing-wind.html

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The mix of renewables such as hydro, solar, wave etc. you mention would do little to alleviate this, particularly since having built the 16 Turlough Hills to keep us going, there would be no further sites available in the 32 counties to provide additional hydro!

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I trust that I have represented your position correctly, and that this correspondence serves to inform interested parties on the Green Party wind energy policy, and how it will affect them if you are elected.

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Is mise le meas,

Nigel de Haas”

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.
This entry was posted in Democracy; Ireland; Fine Gael; Labour; Sinn Fein; Workers; Constitution, EU Renewable Energy 2020 Target, Green Party; Ireland; Eamonn Ryan; Cormac Manning, lobbying; democracy; political process; general election, NREAP; National Renewable Energy Action Plan; EU Commission; Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee; ACCC and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to How Relevant is the Green Party?

  1. In a twitter exchange around the leaders’ debate on Prime Time, a very prominent spokesman for Friends of the Earth described Minister Alex White as a “visionary” on climate change. Leaving the climate change debate to one side, taking the position that decarbonising the economy is the objective of policy, putting almost all the taxpayers’ eggs in the one basket (wind), without doing any assessment, no SEA, no CBA, is the work of a “visionary”?? REALLY? So, with no evidence that moving from 20% to 40% wind penetration will achieve the objective of significantly reducing CO2 emissions but ploughing on regardless meets not just with the mere approval of Friends of the Earth, but with such lavishing endorsement as being publicly described as ” a visionary”…. the Earth can really do without these type of friends …

  2. David Hughes says:

    There are two types of CO2 or GHG emissions…energy generated emissions and agricultural emissions. Given agriculture essentially feeds people let’s leave that one aside and concentrate on energy emissions. Energy emissions are a by-product of fuel combustion…fossil fuel emits CO2 that has been trapped for millenia, biomass emits CO2 that has been absorbed over the lifetime of the particular form of biomass being used.

    Energy emissions can be further broken down into transport and non-transport emissions.

    Transportation has to obey the fundamental laws of physics. To move a mass through a distance energy is required to do the work. This will never change, so apart from very small gains in efficiency the improvement in transport will be very small in incremental terms. Electric cars will not solve this and in a country like Ireland which has an Island based electrical power system it will actually add to the problems.

    This leaves buildings.
    In allmost all areas of life the expression ‘no pain no gain’ seems to hold true…except for buildings.

    For buildings we can have a ‘no pain gain’ or to use another expression ‘less is more’.

    The better we make our new buildings, the cheaper they are to run and the more comfortable they are…hence less is more …and why there is no pain to make this gain.

    For our existing buildings it is cheaper by at least 50% to insulate our buildings than to add generation capacity to ‘supply the leaks’ in the same builidngs. This is not only no pain gain but a gain gain (if you can keep up with the variations on this theme)…perhaps better known as a win-win.

    And getting back to that issue of CO2 emissions; the reduction in emissions is 22 times more effective, thereby easily achieveing reductions of 11MtCO2 out of 36MtCO2 in enegy emissions.

    The jobs created throughput the country in doing this work will bring valuable economic activity into every community.

    The savings in energy bills will put money in the pockets of the hard-pressed energy consumer which in turn will stimulate the local economy.

    Energy savings through insulation work best when the temperature is the coldest. This also happens to coincide with the peak in hospital admissions in Ireland and nearly 2,800 unnecessary deaths asssociated with the cold in our country every year…compare this to 166 road deaths on average and it gives you some idea of how serious this is.

    So let’s look a lot closer to home. Instead of a REFIT tariff let’s introduce a NeW-FIT tariff, with ‘NeW’ meaning a Mega Watt of generations saved or Nega(Ne) Watt(W)…NeW.

    Communities can draw this NeW-FIT rate down and have their homes insulated for free and the best result of all is that we still achieve our NREAP without building a single turbine more …because as we reduce our demand for energy the 20% of wind already there will be leveraged to 40% .

    To use the DCENR’s four tests for an energy policy:

    Security of Supply…the easiest fuel to find is fuel you no longer use.

    Safety…if we reduce demand on our electrical systems they wil be fit for purpose for many more years to come with minimal investment making them safe from outages and loss of frequency and reactive power.

    Sustainability…the cleanest energy is energy you don’t use…it has zero CO2 and zero cost.

    and last but certainly not least JOBS.

    Retrofitting buildings can create a huge number of jobs for the next 15 years. In fact 20,000 jobs would be a very conservative estimate.

    “There are none so deaf as those who won’t listen”.

    Is any party prepared to listen yet?

    David Hughes

  3. Pat Swords says:

    Warren Buffet wouldn’t be regularly called stupid in the same manner as the Irish Greens and as he famously pointed out; ‘risk comes from not knowing what you are doing’.

    All over Europe, except here, investors are getting the jitters, as renewable subsidies are cut and asset unloading is going on behind the scenes. There is also already a huge amount of litigation going on in relation to subsidies, which have been cut, and the validity of those which have already been given. This will only increase. Anyhow, how was past performance on Community wind farms? Interestingly enough the analysis below in German is from their Federal Association for Wind Energy, and relates to an examination of the financial performance of 175 Community wind farms. in which 1,150 annual accounts stretching over a considerable number of years, were analysed:

    http://www.energieagentur-goettingen.de/fileadmin/files/downloads/130213_Daldorf_Praxiserfahrungen_mit_BA__1_4rgerwindparks.pdf

    German Windparks – financial returns: The reality has been very different from the theory used to justify the initial investment, (a) the actual electricity produced has been significantly lower, on average only 86% of what has been claimed for in the investment decision. (b) The operating costs have been much higher due to more maintenance, etc, amounting to some 27.5% of the yields from electricity sales. You might use google translate on the slides, as some financial people in the various groups might be interested, but the key slide is number 21 below on investor’s returns:

    This relates to the evaluation of 1,150 wind park annual accounts in which the investors in the years 2002 to 20011 have received dividends (distributions) in average of 2,5% per year. Over the sum of the years this was 25% of their investments, while according to the sales literature 60 to 80% had been promised. A differential analysis results in a more catastrophic picture.

    25 of 127 windparks have indeed no dividends > 2% = 20%
    22 of 127 windparks have only provided dividends in 1 year = 17%
    27 from 127 windparks have only provided dividends in 2 years = 21%

    As slide 22 concludes:

    “From my previous investigation of the commercial performance of wind farms, I draw the following conclusions:

    1. Around half of all commercial onshore wind parks run so poorly, that as a result their investors could be pleased, if after the 20 years their investment capital could be got back.

    2. Community wind parks have the same problems as commercial wind parks.However, as they as a rule had more favorable manufacturing costs and lower bank debts, the chances of their investors for a small return on investment are somewhat better.”

    I certainly wouldn’t have to write to Warren Buffet about this issue, see below, but then we all don’t have massive tax liabilities to write off like Warren and his friends have:

    http://www.epaw.org/echoes.php?lang=en&article=n338

    So you would need to be absolutely stark raving mad to take advice with regard to investing your own, or your community’s, hard earned financial assets of more limited means in what the Irish Green Party recommends. I’m sure most of us here in Ireland know already, is that the soundest piece of advice in relation to the Irish Green Party, is to do exactly the opposite of what they advise you…..and that stretches to the ballot box on Friday.

  4. Owen says:

    Turlough Hill is a net consumer of electricity so it won’t resolve storage issues either.
    We need a proper plan based on robust analysis, not greens making stuff up on the back of an envelope.

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