The price of renewable electricity could be halved in the near future should the Government make the necessary informed policy choices, according to a new report.
Even though the cost of renewable power has fallen steadily in recent years, the public is paying close to double the prices seen in other European countries such as Germany and Spain.
The report, compiled by British energy consultancy Everoze for the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), states the next government will face “a number of policy choices that can cut - or drive up - the price of wind-generated electricity”, and of building wind farms generally.
Among the ten policy choices outlined are:
- the introduction of taller turbines
- a relaxation of noise limits
- planning permission extensions
- improvements to Ireland’s power transmission grid
Building turbines taller than the current regulation height of 180 metres and a stronger grid could cut costs by 27% and 18% respectively, Everoze said.
At present, up to 40% of Ireland’s power is coming from renewable sources, in line with the country’s 2020 targets. The aim is for that number to reach 70% by 2030.
Dr David Connolly, IWEA’s chief executive, said that any policy missteps to date on behalf of the Government have resulted from lack of knowledge as opposed to poor strategy.
“The most important thing is the need for decent cross-departmental communications on what the impact of a policy decision by one stakeholder will be on wind energy, in a manner that isn’t necessarily visible to the rest of the system,” Dr Connolly said.
While wind energy guidelines are drawn up by the Department of Housing, the cost impact is mostly felt by the Department of Communications, Climate Action, and the Environment, he said.
“We’ve asked them to fill in what the euro value impacts are of these policy decisions on wind energy. There is no way that that information is being brought to the fore at Housing level at present,” Dr Connolly added.
On the back of the report, which doubles as Global Wind Day, IWEA said it is calling for the formation of a task-force by the incoming Government to “reduce the price of renewable electricity in Ireland and require it to report within nine months”.
It said that renewable electricity auctions, the first of which is set to begin next month under the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), will be key to ensuring that the price of such power is as low as possible, but that such schemes are only "part of the picture”.
Dr Connolly said that government policy in recent years has been to push the price of wind farm projects higher in terms of commercial rate hikes, but that this is not conducive to rewarding the consumer.
“Commercial rates for onshore wind farms have more than doubled. The proposed new wind energy guidelines will add billions onto consumer bills over the next 25 years,” he said, adding that the situation doesn’t have to be a case of low prices and dirty energy, or vice versa.