Engineer to challenge Government’s renewable energy programme

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is preparing for a courtroom showdown with a chemical engineer in the new year over the Government’s renewable energy plans.

Pat Swords, a chemical engineer from Dublin, has won the right to seek a judicial review of the Government’s renewable energy programme.

Mr Swords said that he is taking the case because he does not want to see Ireland following the disastrous route that Germany has embarked on which resulted in a tripling of industrial electricity prices and a doubling of domestic prices.

He said he started looking for the legally required documents to show the benefit that Ireland would get from starting large-scale renewable projects.

"As a specialist I could see this coming so I started asking for the legally required information and it was not there," he said. After discovering the lack of documentation he launched his legal battle.

A spokesperson for the department said that they were aware of the pending case.

"We are aware that Mr Swords has notified the Chief State Solicitor’s office of a judicial review," they said.

Mr Swords is taking the Government on under a complicated piece of international law called the Aarhus Convention, that Ireland only adopted in September.

Dr Áine Ryall, a law lecturer at University College Cork, said Mr Swords has already won a similar case in Geneva when he took the European Union to the Aarhus Compliance Commission in Geneva.

Mr Swords is now making a similar argument in Ireland. The argument he presented in Geneva had been based on Ireland’s implementation of the national renewable energy action plan (NREAP).

The commission found that: "By not having properly monitored the implementation by Ireland of article 7 of the Convention in the adoption of Ireland’s NREAP has also failed to comply with article 7 of the Convention."

However, while this finding explicitly states Ireland, the action was taken against the EU. Ms Ryall said that Mr Swords is now piggy-backing on the back of the Geneva findings to take his case in Ireland.

If Ireland were to pursue its current stated renewable goals of generating 40% of its energy from renewable resources, the Irish grid would become unstable, Mr Swords said.

"Germany is struggling at 20% of their energy being developed by renewable energy, In Ireland we are looking to move to 40%."

A survey of German industry leaders and chambers of commerce found rising energy costs and supply were the biggest concern of business leaders in the country.

Mr Swords claims that Eirgrid was aware that implementing a move to renewables in Ireland would increase the price of energy. He said Eirgrid took part in a study with a Finnish Engineering Consultancy Poyry, but Eirgrid refused to release the information.

A spokesperson for Eirgrid said that they could not release the studies findings as they were commercially sensitive.