No more blus­ter – we need fast ac­tion for wind en­ergy to de­liver on po­ten­tial

Irish Independent - - Comment - David Con­nolly Dr David Con­nolly is the CEO of the Ir­ish Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion

STORM Hugo and its fe­ro­cious gusts serve as a pow­er­ful re­minder that Ire­land will shortly face a multi-mil­lion-euro bill for fall­ing to reach our 2020 re­new­able en­ergy tar­gets. The Ir­ish tax­payer will have to spend as much as €400m in cred­its to off­set our to­tal car­bon emis­sions.

The good news is that wind en­ergy has helped re­duce our non­com­pli­ance bill by close to €500m.

How­ever, to achieve the higher tar­gets that will have to be set for

2030, the Gov­ern­ment will need to set out on a bold new path.

Wind en­ergy is on course to pro­duce al­most half of Ire­land’s

2020 re­new­ables tar­gets. This was achieved be­cause of fore­sight and for­ward planning by gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try 10-15 years ago.

How­ever, the same prepa­ra­tion for 2030 has been ab­sent po­lit­i­cally and there is only a short win­dow of time left for the Gov­ern­ment to set out its stall if re­new­ables are to de­liver for 2030.

To ad­dress this press­ing is­sue, the Ir­ish Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion (IWEA) re­cently called on Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Cli­mate Ac­tion and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter De­nis Naugh­ten to be de­ter­mined and am­bi­tious by set­ting a 70pc re­new­able elec­tric­ity tar­get for the year 2030.

This chal­lenge was in­formed by a re­cent study by in­de­pen­dent busi­ness and tech­nol­ogy con­sul­tancy Baringa, which in­di­cated that set­ting this tar­get will ul­ti­mately make it cheaper for the con­sumer by im­prov­ing Ire­land’s en­ergy in­de­pen­dence and by boost­ing our econ­omy with jobs and do­mes­tic growth in­stead of con­tin­u­ing to rely on fos­sil fu­els.

We should not wait for Eu­rope to set a 70pc tar­get, but in­stead set this chal­lenge our­selves to en­sure we con­tinue to grow our econ­omy whilst en­sur­ing a clean en­vi­ron­ment.

IWEA has set out a vi­sion that shows how re­new­ables can de­liver for 2030.

What will be re­quired is more on­shore wind and off­shore wind, so­lar and the development of flex­i­ble tech­nolo­gies such as bat­ter­ies and in­ter­con­nec­tors.

The re­sult will be clean elec­tric­ity that will pro­vide power and heat for not just our homes and busi­nesses, but also the fuel for our cars.

Thank­fully, we are not alone in our am­bi­tion. A 2017 study by IWEA showed 84pc of peo­ple favoured wind en­ergy while also show­ing a high level of un­der­stand­ing of the ben­e­fits. Only 3pc of peo­ple were strongly against. In­de­pen­dent re­search car­ried out by the ESRI and NUIG also pro­duced sim­i­lar re­port­ing out­comes.

The Cit­i­zens’ Assem­bly pro­duced a re­port set­ting out a vi­sion for Ire­land as a cli­mate change leader to­gether with spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions related to re­new­ables. These rec­om­men­da­tions, to­gether with pub­lic sur­veys, show intent on the part of the peo­ple of Ire­land, which must not be left on a shelf by our politi­cians.

While there con­tin­ues to be strong pub­lic sup­port for wind en­ergy, the com­pa­nies de­vel­op­ing this in­fra­struc­ture recog­nise the im­por­tance of com­pre­hen­sive en­gage­ment with com­mu­ni­ties about pro­posed wind­farms.

This means re­spon­si­ble and com­pre­hen­sive com­mu­nity en­gage­ment as pre-con­di­tions for fu­ture wind en­ergy development.

TO as­sist with the trans­for­ma­tion of the coun­try into a low car­bon econ­omy by 2030, a com­mu­nity ben­e­fit fund of €2/MWh has been pro­posed. This means that in fu­ture a

3MW wind tur­bine will pro­vide ap­prox­i­mately €250,000 to a neigh­bour­ing com­mu­nity over a

15-year pe­riod.

IWEA is com­mit­ted to forms of com­mu­nity own­er­ship of projects, though more work is re­quired to min­imise po­ten­tial risks to com­mu­ni­ties.

To­day, as we cel­e­brate ‘Global Wind Day’, it is worth recog­nis­ing that Ire­land is al­ready a world leader when it comes to wind en­ergy. In 2017, we were ranked num­ber three in the world for the share of elec­tric­ity de­mand that was met by wind.

How­ever, the Gov­ern­ment must now step up and broaden its am­bi­tion and vi­sion. There can­not be any more de­lays or pro­cras­ti­nat­ing about what might be done be­cause the work to de­liver for 2030 needs to be­gin now.

More on­shore and off­shore wind, so­lar and power and flex­i­ble tech­nolo­gies are needed to reach IWEA tar­gets by 2030

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