Sunday 25 June 2017

Colm McCarthy: Case for wind must be proven on costs

If the policy makes no economic sense, the objectors' arguments should win the day, writes Colm McCarthy

UNCERTAINTY: Alan Joyce and Ethna Quirke with their children Calum, 5, and Evie, 2, beside the route of proposed electric pylons in Ballintrane, Co. Carlow. Photo: Tony Gavin
UNCERTAINTY: Alan Joyce and Ethna Quirke with their children Calum, 5, and Evie, 2, beside the route of proposed electric pylons in Ballintrane, Co. Carlow. Photo: Tony Gavin
Colm McCarthy

Colm McCarthy

When a necessary and desirable economic development project comes along, there will often be objectors and the immediate instinct is to dismiss them as nimby and selfish. If the economic benefits stack up, sometimes the environmental costs will have to be endured and the trade-offs faced squarely.

But if the economic benefits are illusory, the objectors should win the day. Protests against transmission pylons and wind turbines have become a major focus of political agitation around the country, especially in the midlands. The issues are related, since the need for some of the new transmission pylons derives from the Government's ambitious targets for wind-generated electricity.

The Government intends that no less than 40 per cent of Ireland's electricity needs must ultimately be supplied by renewables, almost all wind. In addition, there are plans to build wind farms in Ireland beyond these ambitious targets for domestic market share, with a view to exporting wind-generated electricity to the United Kingdom. It is not at all clear that this policy makes economic sense.

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