Energy cost claims are just guesses

Cork TD and Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, says that the protests against the Grid 25 programme will give Ireland a bad name. The plan is for 5,000km of cables, including pylons and 7,000 wind turbines.

The notion that wind energy can provide usable power is disputed, but the absence of any legally required cost-benefit analysis suggests the Government is guessing. Germany has a high level of wind farms. Its electricity prices are the second highest in Europe, driving out industry.

It has re-opened 17 coal-fired power stations and plans to open 10 more to replace shut-down nuclear plants. Perhaps Mr Coveney could say which of the following routes for inward investment would be damaged by the halting of the programme: manufacturing, services, fishing, tourism, blood-stock and people from abroad making Ireland their home?

Only manufacturing is a high user of electricity, and even if wind worked, that still leaves five of the six targets for investment with no benefit.

How will pylons look in Killarney, and giant turbines look in Blarney? Are turbines compatible with steeple chasing? These are all external costs that must be borne by the public. Ireland exported about €175bn in goods and services last year, and imported €6bn in fuel, a 29:1 ratio. Of that €6bn, a quarter was used to generate electricity. If wind replaced fuel 100%, this would reduce the ratio to 38:1, which is not much. A proper cost-benefit analysis under the legally binding Aarhus Convention would measure the contribution for wind energy.

A report in 2004, by the ESB, gave the contribution of largescale wind as zero. Wise investors will look for a business plan for their chosen industry, and if it’s not there it will surely give that industry a bad name. Our National Renewable Energy Action Plan is being pushed through on a leap of faith, mainly based on guesswork by unqualified observers, and on a series of wild assumptions. Investors are already abandoning Europe, because it cannot compete with countries that have sensible energy policies.

Perhaps investors will take comfort from the fact that Irish people balance the whole cost of the programme against the dodgy claims that real power will be provided. Is Mr Coveney claiming investors will shun a people that asks for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis conducted by scientists, engineers, economists and accountants?

If he is, what has he learned from the building/banks failure?

Val Martin


Co Cavan

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