Monday 5 December 2016

Government yet to publish cost benefit analysis on wind energy

Gavin McLoughlin and Sarah McCabe

Published 12/04/2015 | 02:30

Billions of private and public money has been spent in an effort to ensure 40pc of Ireland's electricity is supplied by renewable sources by 2020, but the Government has yet to produce a cost/benefit study of what the targets will mean for consumer bills by then.
Billions of private and public money has been spent in an effort to ensure 40pc of Ireland's electricity is supplied by renewable sources by 2020, but the Government has yet to produce a cost/benefit study of what the targets will mean for consumer bills by then.

The Government has yet to publish a study estimating the impact of Ireland's renewable energy target on consumers' pockets, five years after the target was introduced.

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Billions of private and public money has been spent in an effort to ensure 40pc of Ireland's electricity is supplied by renewable sources by 2020, but the Government has yet to produce a cost/benefit study of what the targets will mean for consumer bills by then.

Different groups have published studies on the effects of renewable energy. Some have shown additional wind energy lowering wholesale electricity costs, but the effect of that is countered by the need to upgrade the grid and the public service obligation levy on energy bills. A report recently commissioned by the Irish Wind Energy Association said meeting the 40pc domestic target was expected to lead to higher bills, but that adding more wind capacity above and beyond the target would make bills fall.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources said the Government believes it is necessary to take a broader look and will soon publish a report.

"It was considered timely to undertake and publish analysis which takes a broader look at the components contributing to the projected costs, in order to inform public debate and commentary on the cost and financial impact on the electricity customer," she said.

A new study was carried out by four different taxpayer-funded agencies - the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI), EirGrid and the Commission for Energy Regulation. It compares the cost, for 2020, for Irish energy consumers of two electricity generation scenarios.

One scenario involves meeting 40pc renewable penetration and the other is on Ireland's energy supply mix, as of the end of 2013, when it was below 20pc.

Economist Colm McCarthy recently called for the target to be scrapped, saying it was "pointless" and not in the national interest.

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