Richard Tol, who formerly worked with the Economic and Social Research Institute, spoke after Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton announced the Government’s policy statement on growth and employment in the green economy, which claimed 10,000 jobs could be created in the sector.
Prof Tol said that expanding the sector will result in more jobs, but it is not as simple as that.
“It is obvious that green energy employs people, so if you expand the sector you will need more people,” said Prof Tol. “What this estimate forgets is that we are not using more energy. If you create jobs in one sector of the energy industry, then you will be destroying them in another.”
Among the Government’s plans is a commitment to create 200MW of renewable generation connected to the grid each year.
The Irish Wind Energy Association has welcomed this commitment.
“We welcome this document’s reiteration of support for the production of domestic wind energy through Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariffs, and also the Government’s recognition that the wind sector can provide significant energy exporting potential,” a spokesperson for the association said.
Prof Tol said the main beneficiaries of Irish wind energy would be manufacturers of wind turbines, the majority of which are based abroad, and added that this is where the real jobs will be created by any growth in the sector.
Prof Tol said that, ultimately, wind energy is more expensive to produce than traditional energy, and subsequent higher energy prices will drag down the economy.
“Wind energy is more expensive, so it will result in higher energy costs that will slow down the economy destroying Irish jobs,” said Prof Tol. “Typically you will find what you are doing is destroying jobs.
“I am disappointed in Minister Bruton, as he is an economist and should know better.”
A spokesperson for Mr Bruton played down the role that wind energy will play in the overall development of renewable energy.
“Minister Bruton announced details of a Government policy statement aimed at delivering on the potential for at least 10,000 extra jobs across the more than nine areas that make up the green economy,” a spokesperson said.
“These are energy efficiency and resource efficiency; green products and services; green financial services; agriculture, marine and forestry; tourism; waste management; water management; low carbon transport; as well as renewable energy.
“It is therefore important to point out that wind energy — which is one of several forms of renewable energy being targeted by the Government — forms an important, though relatively small, part of the Government’s overall plans.”