Analysis

Friday 25 July 2014

French connection may spark new life into windfarm project

Eamon Ryan

Published 15/04/2014|02:30

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We should not give up on the Midlands wind project. Even if the United Kingdom is not going to do a deal to buy wind energy from this project, it still makes sense for us to develop our natural resources.

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Going ahead would see us winning in a number of different ways.

It is the cheapest and easiest way for us to cut our climate emissions and it would give the country a badly needed lift in new investment and employment.

There are already sufficient wind projects in development to allow us to meet our 40pc renewable electricity target for 2020, but building a similar amount again in the Bord na Mona cutaway bogs would allow us to raise our level of renewable electricity up to 60pc.

That level of power would make us a leader in the development of a new, clean energy economy. It is clear from the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published on Sunday, that clean energy is going to have to massively increase in the next few decades.

Their economic analysis shows that the sooner you make a start, the cheaper the transition will be.

As it happens, we have the potential to generate it more efficiently than just about anywhere else.

However, we need to do things differently if we are going to get the development right. The Government lost public support due to the way that the Midlands project has been managed to date.

They are blaming the British government for the deal falling through, but UK prime minister David Cameron signalled last month that he wanted it to happen.

It was the first item on the agenda when he met Enda Kenny in Downing Street. The two leaders instructed their respective teams to work out the details over the following three months, but only a few weeks later our Government pulled the plug.

Could that have been anything to do with the upcoming local and European elections?

We need to learn a lesson from how the German political system has maintained public support for wind power.

Half their new supply is owned by ordinary citizens and local co-operatives.

They give favourable terms for local people to invest in the turbines, while in Denmark, they have a mandatory requirement that at least 20pc of ownership has to be held at a local level.

Even if the wind turbines are built on state land here, it makes sense to open up ownership to the wider community. It is a good and secure long-term investment.

With a higher level of wind power we would need to either build new storage and demand management facilities to bank the power when wind speeds are high, or else build interconnections to balance our supply with another market.

If the UK is not willing to do a deal, we could advance the plans that are already in place to work with France as a trading partner.

The European Union has already agreed to provide funding for such a new interconnector with France as new sub-sea cable technology allows you send power over long distances with very little losses.

Perhaps the axing of the UK deal is a blessing in disguise.

We didn't have the right arrangements in place, but there is nothing stopping us going ahead in a different way and fulfilling the massive potential that still exists.

EAMON RYAN IS THE LEADER OF THE GREEN PARTY

Irish Independent

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