So-called ‘green’ energy providers are not all they seem, a watchdog has warned.
As much as one-third of electricity sold by eco-friendly companies such as Airtricity is produced by burning gas, coal, peat and oil – the fossil fuels that are the main cause of global warming.
The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) said yesterday that just 65.6pc of all power sold by Airtricity comes from renewable sources, with the rest produced from fossil fuels, including gas (24.8pc), coal (5.7pc), peat (2.7pc) and oil (1pc).
The figure is even lower for Quinn Wind Farm Ltd, which produces just 28pc from wind with the bulk of power provided to customers (51.5pc) produced by burning gas.
The reason is because the wind doesn’t blow all the time, and the companies have contracts to supply power.
This means they must source alternative supplies, often from traditional generators, to fulfil their contracts.
Airtricity – the biggest producer of renewable energy in the market – says on its website that “100pc of the energy we generate in Ireland is from renewable sources.”
But it doesn’t say that one-third of the power it supplies comes from burning fossil fuels.
A spokesman said the company had grown its customer base, and had dozens of projects coming on stream that would help reduce its reliance on other generators.
“The reason why the figure has gone down is because we’ve grown our customer base,” he said.
“We are committed to continuing to invest in all renewable energy forms,” he added.
The CER figures show that 14.2pc of all power produced last year came from renewable sources.
This has risen to 15pc this year, meaning Ireland has reached its government target to produce power from renewable sources.
By 2020, 40pc of all power will come from wind, ocean and wave energy.
“Already, at times, the Irish system has been operated with levels of up to 50pc generation from renewables,” the national grid operator, Eirgrid, said.
The progress that was being made meant that Ireland “will this year have enough wind generation installed to meet the 2010 target and we are on target to meet the target of 40pc renewable power by 2020”, it added.