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IT can only be hoped that the introduction of the public service obligation levy on electricity, with prices to increase up to 5%, will be a wake-up call to help dispel the myth that renewable energy (specifically wind) is not costly.
The levy does not even include the hidden cost of wind energy arising from its variable and intermittent nature. This intermittency problem means that more flexible but less efficient open-cycle gas turbines are required to compensate and balance the electricity supply as the output from wind farms rises and falls. The use of such plants, as opposed to more efficient but less flexible combined-cycle gas turbines, results in higher gas consumption, the cost of which is buried in the general electricity price.
These hidden costs must worsen in future when the price of gas resumes its inevitable upward trend and the amount of wind on the system reaches the Government target of 40% of total output.
Then increasing amounts of expensive gas will be required to fill in for the periods when the wind does not blow.
With gas prices increasing in future, international economic competitiveness will accrue especially to those countries with hydroelectric and nuclear power.
One-third of the electricity generated in Europe today is nuclear and this proportion is set to grow, with Italy the latest country to announce that it is “going nuclear”. Ireland is not merely falling behind – we are not even in the race.
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