Friday 31 March 2017

Nuclear power 'would cost too much' -- ESRI

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

THE State's economic think-tank has ruled out nuclear power for Ireland because it would cost too much and would not be acceptable to the public.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) will today say that the public should not be forced to subsidise the generation of electricity from renewable sources, and that the State should only invest a small amount developing wave and ocean technologies.

The Review of Irish Energy Policy, to be published today, states that bringing gas from the Corrib gas field in Co Mayo ashore is "vital". But the Government needs to "rethink" its energy policy, it says.

"Demand is lower and we have to plan for an uncertain future," Professor John Fitzgerald said.

"Nuclear (power) will never be economic. The large size of standard plants makes them uneconomic and because onshore wind is already so successful, this will make investment in new nuclear plants uneconomic.

"Public concern about nuclear generation would mean that even if the economic considerations favoured nuclear, any decision to build a nuclear plant would be likely to generate major opposition," he added.

The ESRI is also critical about the lack of clearly defined policies on how renewable energy sources such as offshore wind, wave and tidal should be developed. The State should not be subsidising this research, it said.

The Government has a scheme called a Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT), which guarantees the price wind farm operators and offshore projects get for generating power.

Growth

It is designed to stimulate the growth of the renewable energy industry.

"The REFIT scheme for technologies other than onshore wind should be ended. Offshore wind, tidal and wave power are all technologies that are worth researching as they could possibly eventually prove cost effective in some locations in the world," the report says.

"It could make sense to provide some limited public support for research in this area, however, the scale of the support should recognise that there is no guarantee that new developments in this field will benefit Ireland."

The ESRI says 56pc of our electricity is produced from gas.

"We're so dependent on gas, especially for electricity generation, and if we lost our supply it would have catastrophic effects," Prof Fitzgerald said.

"People will die in hospital, businesses will close and traffic lights will not work."

He also said that two electricity pipelines called interconnectors would have to be built so excess wind power could be exported to the UK and the continent.

"We'll need another one or two interconnectors before the end of the decade. Mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure the wind comes on stream at the same time as the interconnectors," he added.

Irish Independent

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