‘Mon­u­men­tal’ wind en­ergy op­por­tu­nity, con­fer­ence told

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS | NEWS - KEVIN O’SUL­LI­VAN In Gal­way

The ex­pan­sion of wind en­ergy gen­er­a­tion in Ire­land over the 2000-2020 pe­riod had an as­so­ci­ated net cost of just €1 per house­hold a year, ac­cord­ing to a soon-to-be-pub­lished study of the sec­tor.

“Be­tween 2000 and 2020, the net fi­nan­cial cost of wind was €100 mil­lion. This is sig­nif­i­cantly less than the to­tal sup­port costs un­der the Pub­lic Ser­vice Obli­ga­tion [PSO] of €2 bil­lion,” ac­cord­ing to Dr Mark Turner, di­rec­tor of Baringa en­ergy con­sul­tants who un­der­took the study.

The pro­jec­tions out to 2020 are based on ex­ist­ing wind ca­pac­ity. Dr Turner also told an Ir­ish Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence in Gal­way that wind en­ergy over that pe­riod had saved 40 mil­lion tones of CO2 across the is­land of Ire­land and €2.5 bil­lion on gas burn­ing to gen­er­ate power. The ben­e­fits were clear when whole­sale power prices, sav­ings on ca­pac­ity payments and avoid­ance of EU non-com­pli­ance costs for not meet­ing re­new­able tar­gets were fac­tored in.

IWEA chief ex­ec­u­tive Dr David Con­nolly said record lev­els of wind en­ergy were be­ing de­liv­ered at scale in Ire­land. So far this year, 27.5 per cent of elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion in Ire­land had come from wind en­ergy. He ex­pected that fig­ure would reach 30 per cent by the end of the year. The Repub­lic had the cheap­est PSO levy ap­plied to elec­tric­ity bills in Europe, which he said was pro­vid­ing “clean, green en­ergy at mi­nor cost to the con­sumer”.

He was con­fi­dent the Ir­ish wind sec­tor could con­trib­ute to pro­vid­ing even cheaper elec­tric­ity, and be­come “a low-cost en­ergy” provider com­pared with fos­sil fu­els over the next decade. “If we get this right, the op­por­tu­nity for ru­ral Ire­land is mon­u­men­tal,” he added.

Num­ber one source

Wind en­ergy would be the num­ber one source of elec­tric­ity in the EU by 2025, said Giles Dick­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of WindEurope (WE) which rep­re­sents the EU’s wind sec­tor in Europe. But elec­tric­ity ac­counted for only 24 per cent of to­tal en­ergy con­sumed – with heat (45 per cent) and trans­port (31 per cent) mak­ing up the rest. If Europe was go­ing to de­car­bonise by 2050, he said it would re­quire get­ting much more re­new­ables into heat and trans­port; “elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is the only way”.

He con­firmed that WE had writ­ten to Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Theresa May and Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker to un­der­line the cru­cial im­por­tance of keep­ing the UK en­ergy sys­tem as closely as pos­si­ble to the in­ter­nal EU en­ergy mar­ket post Brexit, and not to change the sin­gle elec­tric­ity mar­ket (I-SEM) on the is­land of Ire­land. His un­der­stand­ing was there would be some dis­rup­tions but there was a strong sense on both sides that they should be min­imised, while the I-SEM would func­tion as nor­mal.

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